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Bankruptcy and Student Loans

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

Veterans’ Benefits: The Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program

Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment for veterans (VR&E) is an entitlement program that provides job training and other employment-related services to veterans with service-connected disabilities. In cases where a disabled veteran is not able to work, the VR&E program provides independent living (IL) services to help the veteran achieve the highest possible quality of life. The VR&E program is administered by the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), part of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

To be entitled to VR&E services, a veteran must have been discharged under conditions...

U.S. Manufacturing in International Perspective

The health of the U.S. manufacturing sector has long been of great concern to Congress. The decline in manufacturing employment since the start of the 21st century has stimulated particular congressional interest, leading Members to introduce hundreds of bills over many sessions of Congress intended to support domestic manufacturing activity in various ways. The proponents of such measures frequently contend that the United States is by various measures falling behind other countries in manufacturing, and they argue that this relative decline can be mitigated or reversed by government...

Cyprus: Reunification Proving Elusive

Two months into 2018, the negotiations to end the division of Cyprus, after 54 years as a politically separated nation and 44 years as a physically divided country, remain suspended. After a promising 2017 ended without a negotiated solution, the long-sought bizonal, bicommunal, federal outcome for the island remains elusive. The circumstances under which negotiations might resume appear uncertain.

National elections in the Republic of Cyprus in early 2018 resulted in the reelection of President Nicos Anastasiades after a second-round victory over Stavros Malas. Both candidates were...

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

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) was established by the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968 (NFIA, 42 U.S.C. §4001 et seq.), and was most recently reauthorized until March 23, 2018 (P.L. 115-123). The general purpose of the NFIP is both to offer primary flood insurance to properties with significant flood risk, and to reduce flood risk through the adoption of floodplain management standards. A longer term objective of the NFIP is to reduce federal expenditure on disaster assistance after floods. The NFIP also engages in many “non-insurance” activities in the public interest: it...

Birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington: Fact Sheet

Washington’s Birthday, often informally called Presidents’ Day, is a federal holiday celebrating the birth of President George Washington on the third Monday in February. In some regions of the United States, the birth of President Abraham Lincoln is also unofficially celebrated on this holiday. The official designation for this holiday is “Washington’s Birthday.” Although other institutions such as state and local governments and private businesses may use other names, it is federal policy to always refer to holidays by the names designated in the law.

This guide assists congressional...

National African American History Month Speech Resources: Fact Sheet

This fact sheet links to authoritative information resources related to National African American History Month, which is also referred to as African American History Month and Black History Month. It is designed to assist congressional offices with work related to National African American History Month by providing links to legislation, CRS reports, sample speeches and remarks from the Congressional Record, and presidential proclamations and remarks. It also links to additional government web resources and selected advocacy, educational, cultural, and military, organizations.

FEMA Individual Assistance Programs: In Brief

When the President declares a major disaster pursuant to the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (P.L. 93-288), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) advises the President about types of federal assistance administered by FEMA available to disaster victims, states, localities, and tribes. The primary types of assistance provided under a major disaster declaration include funding through the Public Assistance program, Mitigation Assistance programs, and the Individual Assistance program.

The Public Assistance program provides federal financial...

Use of the Capitol Rotunda, Capitol Grounds, and Emancipation Hall: Concurrent Resolutions, 101st to 115th Congress

The Capitol Rotunda and the Capitol Grounds have been used as the setting for a variety of events, ranging from memorial ceremonies and the reception of foreign dignitaries to the presentation of awards and the hosting of public competitions. This report identifies and categorizes uses of the Capitol Rotunda and Capitol Grounds authorized by concurrent resolutions since the 101st Congress.

In most cases, use of the Capitol Rotunda requires a concurrent resolution agreed to by both the House and Senate. A concurrent resolution for the use of the Rotunda typically identifies the event and...

EPA’s Methane Regulations: Legal Overview

On March 28, 2017, President Trump signed Executive Order 13783, directing federal agencies to review existing regulations and policies that potentially burden the development or use of domestically produced energy resources. Acting pursuant to the order, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is reviewing and reconsidering several regulations issued during the Obama Administration that address methane emissions from various industrial sectors. Methane is a short-lived greenhouse gas (GHG) with a Global Warming Potential of more than 25 times carbon dioxide that is emitted from...

21st Century Flood Reform Act (H.R. 2874): Reforming the National Flood Insurance Program

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) was established by the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968 (NFIA, 42 U.S.C. §4001 et seq.), and was reauthorized until February 8, 2018 (H.R. 195). Unless reauthorized or amended by Congress, the following will occur after February 8, 2018: (1) the authority to provide new flood insurance contracts will expire; and (2) the authority for the NFIP to borrow funds from the Treasury will be reduced from $30.425 billion to $1 billion.

The House passed H.R. 2874, the 21st Century Flood Reform Act, on November 14, 2017, with a vote of 237-189. H.R....

Membership of the 115th Congress: A Profile

This report presents a profile of the membership of the 115th Congress (2017-2018) as of January 3, 2018. Statistical information is included on selected characteristics of Members, including data on party affiliation, average age, occupation, education, length of congressional service, religious affiliation, gender, ethnicity, foreign births, and military service.

In the House of Representatives, there are 240 Republicans (including 1 Delegate and the Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico), 197 Democrats (including 4 Delegates), and 4 vacant seats. The Senate has 51 Republicans, 47...

Respirable Crystalline Silica in the Workplace: New Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Standards

On March 25, 2016, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of the Department of Labor (DOL) published new standards regulating exposure to crystalline silica in the workplace. Under the new standards, the Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) for crystalline silica is to be reduced to 50 µg/m3 (micrograms per cubic meter of air). Employers are to be required to monitor crystalline silica exposure if workplace levels may exceed 25 µg/m3 for at least 30 days in a year and provide medical monitoring to employees in those workplaces. In the case of construction workers, medical...

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Speech Resources: Fact Sheet

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a federal holiday observed annually on the third Monday in January. It celebrates the life and legacy of the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. in honor of his birthday and achievements. The day is also referred to as the Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday; MLK Day; Martin Luther King Day; the King Holiday; and the King Day of Service. In 2018, this holiday is celebrated on January 15.

This guide assists congressional offices with work related to Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. It contains links to legislation, CRS reports, sample speeches and remarks from...

Farm Bill Primer Series: A Guide to Omnibus Legislation on Agriculture and Food Programs

This report constitutes a guide to a series of two-page reports that examine the various programs and policies that comprise periodic omnibus legislation on farm and food policy, commonly known as “the farm bill.” The current farm bill (P.L. 113-79) was signed into law in February 2014. Many of the programs authorized by the 2014 farm bill are scheduled to expire in 2018 unless Congress provides for an extension, or reauthorizes them. Without congressional action, key commodity support programs would revert to permanently authorized legislation from the 1930s and 1940s.

Farm bill Farm bill...

Cybersecurity: Education, Training, and R&D Authoritative Reports and Resources

Much is written on the topics of current gaps in the education and training of a cybersecurity workforce and the need for technology research and development (R&D) to solve cybersecurity technical issues. This CRS report directs the reader to authoritative sources that address these issues. The annotated descriptions of these sources are listed in reverse chronological order, with an emphasis on material published in the past several years. This report also includes resources and studies from government agencies (federal, state, local, and international), think tanks, academic...

Cybersecurity: Data, Statistics, and Glossaries

This report describes data and statistics from government, industry, and information technology (IT) security firms regarding the current state of cybersecurity threats in the United States and internationally. These include incident estimates, costs, and annual reports on data security breaches, identity thefts, cybercrimes, malware, and network securities.

Much is written on this topic, and this CRS report directs the reader to authoritative sources that address many of the most prominent issues. The annotated descriptions of these sources are listed in reverse chronological order, with...

Monuments and Memorials Authorized and Completed Under the Commemorative Works Act in the District of Columbia

Since the enactment of the Commemorative Works Act (CWA) in 1986, Congress has authorized 35 commemorative works to be placed in the District of Columbia or its environs. Nineteen of these works have been completed and dedicated.

This report contains a catalog of the 19 authorized works that have been completed and dedicated since 1986. For each memorial, the report provides a rationale for each authorized work, as expressed by a Member of Congress, as well as the statutory authority for its creation; and identifies the group or groups which sponsored the commemoration, the memorial’s...

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 non-tariff 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...

Thanksgiving: Fact Sheet

Thanksgiving is a federal holiday observed on the fourth Thursday in November. It began in 1621 as a harvest celebration between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians and has become a time for families and friends to gather to reflect and express gratitude.

In 1789, President George Washington declared November 26 a national day of Thanksgiving. Subsequent Presidents issued Thanksgiving proclamations, but the dates of the commemoration changed. In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation establishing the last Thursday of November as Thanksgiving.

In October 1941, Congress...

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...

Drought in the United States: Causes and Current Understanding

Drought is a natural hazard with potentially significant economic, social, and ecological consequences. History suggests that severe and extended droughts are inevitable and part of natural climate cycles. Drought has for centuries shaped the societies of North America and will continue to do so into the future. The likelihood of extended periods of severe drought and its effects on 21st-century society in the United States raise several issues for Congress. These issues include how to respond to recurrent drought incidents, how to prepare for future drought, and how to coordinate federal...

Veterans Day Speech Resources: Fact Sheet

This fact sheet is designed to assist congressional offices with work related to celebrating Veterans Day. It contains a brief history, CRS reports, sample speeches and recognitions, presidential proclamations, and statistics. It also contains links to additional web resources from authoritative sources.

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

Almost all borrowing by the federal government is conducted by the Treasury Department, within the restrictions established by a single, statutory limit (ceiling) on the total amount of debt that may be outstanding at any time. By law, the Treasury cannot exceed federal debt limits, so the Treasury periodically has had to ask Congress to enact new debt limits so it can fulfill its financial commitments. Since 1978, 57 measures adjusting or suspending the statutory debt limit either as stand-alone legislation or as part of legislation dealing with other matters have been enacted into...

Speechwriting Resources: Fact Sheet

As elected officials and leaders, Senators and Representatives are frequently called upon to deliver speeches and other public remarks to a range of audiences. Congressional staff often prepare draft speeches for Members of Congress.

Effective delivery can greatly improve the reception of a speech. In general, congressional speechwriters should make every effort to become familiar with the speaking style of the Member for whom they are writing, adjusting drafts accordingly. Contemporary American public address emphasizes a style that is natural, direct, low key, casual, and conversational....

Native American Heritage Month: Fact Sheet

Native American Heritage Month (also known as National American Indian Heritage Month) celebrates the contributions and achievements of Native Americans.

November was first designated as National American Indian Heritage Month on August 3, 1990, by P.L. 101-343, To authorize and request the President to proclaim the month of November 1990, and thereafter as “Native American Indian Heritage Month.” Since then, Presidents have issued annual proclamations promoting this observance.

On June 26, 2009, P.L. 111-33, Native American Heritage Day Act of 2009, designated the Friday after...

Christian Holidays: Fact Sheet

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

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

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

Muslim Holidays: Fact Sheet

Islam is one of the three major Abrahamic faiths, alongside Judaism and Christianity. Islam, considered by the Pew Research Center to be the world’s fastest growing religion, has approximately 1.8 billion followers worldwide, of whom some 3.35 million live in the United States. Muslims annually observe two major holidays: Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. This fact sheet describes the two holidays’ significance and American Muslims’ observance of them, and addresses the ways the holidays have been recognized by elected officials. The fact sheet also briefly describes two other widely celebrated...

Jewish Holidays: Fact Sheet

Judaism is one of the three major Abrahamic faiths, alongside Islam and Christianity. Many traditions and variations of Judaism are practiced in the United States, including cultural and religious variations. According to the Pew Research Center, about 2.2% of Americans (6.7 million people) self-identify as religiously or culturally Jewish. Roughly 22% of American Jews describe themselves as culturally, but not religiously, Jewish.

This fact sheet highlights four major cultural and religious holidays observed by a significant portion of Jewish American populations (Passover, Rosh Hashanah,...

Hindu Holidays: Fact Sheet

Hinduism (or Sanatana Dharma) is the third largest religion in the world behind Christianity and Islam, with nearly one billion adherents. According to the Pew Research Center, about 0.7% of Americans self-identify themselves as Hindu. Originating on the Indian subcontinent, it is often described as a combination of many religious beliefs and philosophical schools.

This fact sheet is designed to assist congressional offices with work related to Hindu holidays. It contains sample speeches and remarks from the Congressional Record, presidential proclamations and remarks, and selected...

Reconsidering the Clean Power Plan

On October 10, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed to repeal the Clean Power Plan (CPP), an Obama Administration rule that would limit carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from existing fossil-fuel-fired power plants. Because power plant CO2 emissions account for about 30% of total U.S. anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs), the CPP has been seen as the most important U.S. regulation addressing climate change.

The CPP has not gone into effect: In February 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court stayed its implementation pending the completion of judicial review. Even...

Use of National Statuary Hall: Assignment and Historic Events

Statuary Hall has been used as the setting for a variety of events, including memorial ceremonies and receptions for new Members of Congress, award presentations, and as media space after presidential addresses. This report identifies and categorizes uses of Statuary Hall since 2005.

Use of Statuary Hall is at the discretion of the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Under House Rule I, clause 3, the Speaker has the authority to assign unappropriated rooms on the House of Representatives side of the Capitol, including Statuary Hall. Use of Statuary Hall could also be authorized by...

Columbus Day: Fact Sheet

Columbus Day is a federal holiday commemorating Christopher Columbus’s historic voyage landing in the Americas on October 12, 1492. It has also become a time to honor Italian American heritage.

This guide is designed to assist congressional offices with work related to Columbus Day celebrations. It contains biographical information on Christopher Columbus and background on the holiday. It provides links to sample speeches marking the observance of Columbus Day from the Congressional Record and to official proclamations issued by the White House. It also contains links to selected...

Ethics Pledges and Other Executive Branch Appointee Restrictions Since 1993: Historical Perspective, Current Practices, and Options for Change

On January 28, 2017, President Donald Trump issued Executive Order (E.O.) 13770 on ethics and lobbying. E.O. 13770 created an ethics pledge for executive branch appointees, provided for the administration and enforcement of the pledge, and revoked President Barack Obama’s executive order ethics pledge that covered his Administration (E.O. 13490). President Trump’s executive order shares some features with President Obama’s executive order and a previous executive order issued by President Bill Clinton.

Executive order ethics pledges are one of several tools, along with laws and...

Pre-Merger Review and Challenges Under the Clayton Act and the Federal Trade Commission Act

Preserving competition is an overarching purpose of federal laws governing business mergers. Though other federal laws, including the Sherman Act, seek to address anticompetitive behavior relating to monopolization, two federal statutes, in particular, address harms that may result from proposed mergers. Section 7 of the Clayton Act prohibits mergers “in any line of commerce or in any activity affecting commerce” that may substantially lessen competition or tend to create a monopoly. Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act (FTC Act) prohibits unfair methods of competition, which...

Mandatory Arbitration and the Federal Arbitration Act

Arbitration is a method of legal dispute resolution in which a neutral, private third party, rather than a judge or jury, renders a decision on a particular matter. Under a growing number of consumer and employment agreements, companies have come to require arbitration to resolve disputes. While arbitration is often viewed as an expeditious and economical alternative to litigation, consumer advocates and others contend that mandatory arbitration agreements create one-sided arrangements that deny consumers and employees advantages afforded by a judicial proceeding.

The Federal Arbitration...

National Hispanic Heritage Month: Fact Sheet

This fact sheet is designed to assist congressional offices with work related to National Hispanic Heritage Month, which is observed from September 15 to October 15. It contains links to census and demographic information, a CRS report, sample speeches and remarks from the Congressional Record, and presidential proclamations. It also contains links to additional cultural and historical resources and selected educational, cultural, and advocacy organizations.

Patriot Day: Fact Sheet

In 2001, P.L. 107-89 designated September 11 as Patriot Day to honor the individuals who lost their lives as a result of the terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001. The law asks the President to issue a Proclamation for Patriot Day each year that directs the U.S. flag be flown at half-staff and a moment of silence be observed.

The terrorist attacks, which claimed nearly 3,000 lives, involved four civilian airplanes hijacked by 19 members of the Al Qaeda terrorist network. The first two airplanes were crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New...

Federal Disaster Assistance Response and Recovery Programs: Brief Summaries

This report is designed to assist Members of Congress and their staff as they address the needs of their states, communities, and constituents after a disaster. It includes a summary of federal programs that provide federal disaster assistance to individual survivors, states, territories, local governments, and nongovernmental entities following a natural or man-made disaster. A number of federal agencies provide financial assistance through grants, loans, and loan guarantees to assist in the provision of critical services, such as temporary housing, counseling, and infrastructure...

FEMA Disaster Housing: The Individuals and Households Program—Implementation and Potential Issues for Congress

Following a major disaster declaration, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) may provide three principal forms of assistance. These include Public Assistance, which addresses repairs to a community and states’ or tribe’s infrastructure; Mitigation Assistance which provides funding for projects a state or tribe submits to reduce the threat of future damage; and Individual Assistance (IA) which provides help to individuals and families.

IA can include several programs, depending on whether the governor of the affected state or the tribal leader has requested that specific help....

House Standing Committee Chairs and Ranking Minority Members: Rules Governing Selection Procedures

House rules, Republican Conference rules, and Democratic Caucus rules each detail aspects of the procedures followed in selecting standing committee chairs and ranking minority members. The Republican Steering Committee and the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee are constituted during the early organization meetings traditionally held in November and December to determine most committee chairs and ranking minority members and to make committee assignments for most committees. Their recommendations are then forwarded to the full Republican Conference and Democratic Caucus for...

House Rules Manual: Summary of Contents

The House Rules and Manual, officially titled Constitution, Jefferson’s Manual and Rules of the House of Representatives, contains the fundamental source material describing procedures in the House of Representatives. The Manual includes the Constitution of the United States, selected provisions of Jefferson’s Manual, rules of the House, provisions of law and resolutions enacted or adopted under the rule-making authority of the House, and pertinent decisions of the Speaker and chairmen of the Committee of the Whole interpreting the rules and procedural authority used in the House, often...

Latin America and the Caribbean: Fact Sheet on Leaders and Elections

This fact sheet tracks current heads of government in Central and South America, Mexico, and the Caribbean. It provides dates of the last and next elections for the head of government and the national independence date for each country.

Labor Day Speech Resources: Fact Sheet

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

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

Airport Privatization: Issues and Options for Congress

In 1996, Congress established the Airport Privatization Pilot Program (APPP; 49 U.S.C. §47134; Section 149 of the Federal Aviation Reauthorization Act of 1996, P.L. 104-264) to increase access to sources of private capital for airport development and to make airports more efficient, competitive, and financially viable. Participation in the program has been very limited, in good part because major stakeholders have different, if not contradictory, objectives and interests.

Only two U.S. commercial service airports have completed the privatization process established under the APPP. One of...

U.S. Circuit and District Court Judges: Profile of Select Characteristics

This report addresses ongoing congressional interest in the demographic characteristics and professional experiences of those individuals nominated and appointed to fill lower federal court judgeships. It focuses on demographic and other background characteristics of active U.S. circuit and district court judges who are currently serving on the federal bench.

Unless otherwise noted, the statistics provided in the report do not reflect all of a particular President’s circuit or district court appointments during his time in office—but only active judges appointed by that President. A judge...

Remedies for Patent Infringement

For more than a decade, some Members of Congress have considered bills that have proposed reforms to the law of patent remedies. Under current law, courts may award damages to compensate patent proprietors for an act of infringement. Damages consist of the patent owner’s lost profits due to the infringement, if they can be proven. Otherwise the adjudicated infringer must pay a reasonable royalty. Courts may also award enhanced damages of up to three times the actual damages in exceptional cases. In addition, courts may issue an injunction that prevents the adjudicated infringer from...

Women in Congress: Summary Statistics and Brief Overview

A record 110 women currently serve in the 115th Congress: 89 in the House (including Delegates and the Resident Commissioner from Puerto Rico; 65 Democrats and 24 Republicans) and 21 in the Senate (16 Democrats and 5 Republicans). This passed the previous record from the 114th Congress (108 women initially sworn in, and 1 House Member subsequently elected).

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

Judicial Review of Medicaid Work Requirements Under Section 1115 Demonstrations

Proposals have been introduced in the 115th Congress to reform the Medicaid program, which provides medical assistance to low-income and needy individuals. One such approach, taken by House-passed H.R. 1628, the American Health Care Act of 2017, would allow states to impose work requirements on certain categories of individuals as a condition of coverage under the Medicaid program. A similar approach is also taken in the discussion draft of the Better Care Reconciliation Act, a proposed amendment in the nature of a substitute to H.R. 1628, which was published by the Senate Budget Committee...

Generic Drugs and GDUFA Reauthorization: In Brief

A generic drug is a lower-cost copy of a brand-name chemical drug. Marketing of the generic drug becomes possible only when the brand-name—also called innovator—drug is no longer protected from market competition by patent and other protections, called regulatory exclusivity.

Prior to marketing, the sponsor of a brand-name drug must submit to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) clinical data in a new drug application (NDA) to support the claim that the drug is safe and effective for its intended use. The FDA uses the information in the NDA as a basis for approving or denying the...

Selected Agency Budget Justifications for FY2018

This report provides a convenient listing of online FY2018 agency budget justification submissions for all 15 executive branch departments and 9 selected independent agencies. In most cases, budget justifications contain more detailed descriptions of the proposals and programs that are provided in the President’s budget submissions.

This report will be updated to reflect the current budget justifications submissions for the forthcoming fiscal year.

Independence Day: Fact Sheet

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

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

Finding Medicare Enrollment Statistics

There is no single source for Medicare enrollment statistics. Various sources described in this report present different breakdowns of enrollment data, including coverage type (Parts A, B, C, and D), beneficiary type (aged, disabled), and geographic area. This report provides guidance in determining the most current sources for different categories of enrollment data.

The report presents basic categories and definitions for terms related to Medicare enrollment data, a quick reference table that summarizes key data available in selected resources, and a more detailed overview of core resources.

Finding Quotes for Speeches: Fact Sheet

A well-chosen quote can strengthen a speech by emphasizing and reinforcing a point, tapping into the audience’s memories and associations, and bolstering the speaker’s credibility. The right quote can capture the listener’s attention, add poignancy, and infuse drama or poetic flair.

The following resources will help the user find quotes for speeches and other communications. The resources are divided into three categories: General Quotations, Americana, and Religion. There is some overlap among the categories.

Congressional staffers who need assistance finding or verifying a quote, or who...

Juneteenth: Fact Sheet

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

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

Memorial Day Speech Resources: Fact Sheet

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

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

Graduation: Fact Sheet

Graduation and commencement ceremonies at U.S. academic institutions are often held in the months of May and June. This guide is designed to assist congressional offices with work related to graduation celebrations. It contains a brief history of the ceremonial tradition and the attire worn, sample speeches by government officials, presidential commencement addresses, and statistical resources on educational attainment and graduation rates from authoritative government sources.

Financing Airport Improvements

There are five major sources of airport capital development funding: the federal Airport Improvement Program (AIP); local passenger facility charges (PFCs) imposed pursuant to federal law; tax-exempt bonds; state and local grants; and airport operating revenue from tenant lease and other revenue-generating activities such as landing fees. Federal involvement is most consequential in AIP, PFCs, and tax-exempt financing.

The AIP has been providing federal grants for airport development and planning since the passage of the Airport and Airway Improvement Act of 1982 (P.L. 97-248). AIP funding...

Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month Speech Resources: Fact Sheet

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

This guide is designed to assist congressional offices with work-related Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month celebrations. It contains links to census and demographic information, CRS reports, and presidential proclamations, as well as additional web resources commemorating Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month. The guide also provides a list of educational, cultural, and advocacy organizations...

How to Develop and Write a Grant Proposal

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

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

Older Americans Month Speech Resources: Fact Sheet

May is Older Americans Month—a time to celebrate and pay tribute to older people across the country. Every year since 1992, the Administration on Aging has selected a theme for Older Americans Month. The theme for May 2017 is Age Out Loud. The Administration for Community Living website contains a list of past themes.

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

American War and Military Operations Casualties: Lists and Statistics

This report provides U.S. war casualty statistics. It includes data tables containing the number of casualties among American military personnel who served in principal wars and combat operations from 1775 to the present. It also includes data on those wounded in action and information such as race and ethnicity, gender, branch of service, and cause of death. The tables are compiled from various Department of Defense (DOD) sources.

Wars covered include the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, the Korean...

The Congressional Arts Caucus and the Congressional Art Competition: History and Current Practice

Sponsored by the Congressional Arts Caucus, and known in recent years as “An Artistic Discovery,” the Congressional Art Competition is open to high school students nationwide. Begun in 1982, the competition, based in congressional districts, provides the opportunity for Members of Congress to encourage and recognize the artistic talents of their young constituents. Since its inception, more than 650,000 high school students nationwide have been involved in the program.

Each year, the art of one student per participating congressional district is selected to represent the district. The...

Lobbying Registration and Disclosure: The Role of the Clerk of the House and the Secretary of the Senate

On September 14, 2007, President George W. Bush signed S. 1, the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007 (P.L. 110-81), into law. The Honest Leadership and Open Government Act (HLOGA) amended the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA) of 1995 (P.L. 104-65, as amended) to provide, among other changes to federal law and House and Senate rules, additional and more frequent disclosures of lobbying contacts and activities. This report explains the role of the Clerk of the House of Representatives and the Secretary of the Senate in implementing lobbying registration and disclosure requirements...

National Health Service Corps: Background, Funding, and Programs

The National Health Service Corps (NHSC) is a pipeline for clinician recruitment and training. Its program objective is to increase the availability of primary care services to populations in Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs). It aims to increase clinician availability by making loan repayments and awarding scholarships to individuals in exchange for their agreement to serve as NHSC clinicians (or providers) at approved sites. NHSC providers are mainly physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and behavioral/mental health professionals who must serve for a minimum of...

OSHA State Plans: In Brief, with Examples from California and Arizona

The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act) authorizes states to establish their own occupational safety and health plans and preempt standards established and enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA must approve state plans if they are “at least as effective” as OSHA’s standards and enforcement. Currently, 21 states and Puerto Rico have state plans that cover all employers and 5 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands have state plans that cover only state and local government employers, who are not covered by the OSH Act. OSHA estimates that 40%...

Federal Securities Law: Insider Trading

Insider trading in securities may occur when a person in possession of material nonpublic information about a company trades in the company’s securities and makes a profit or avoids a loss. Certain federal statutes have provisions that have been used to prosecute insider trading violations. For example, Section 16 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 requires the disgorgement of short-swing profits by named insiders—directors, officers, and 10% shareholders. The 1934 Act’s general antifraud provision, Section 10(b), is frequently used in the prosecution of insider traders. Although the...

Resources for Grantseekers

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

State and Local “Sanctuary” Policies Limiting Participation in Immigration Enforcement

The federal government is vested with the exclusive power to create rules governing which aliens may enter the United States and which aliens may be removed. However, the impact of alien migration—whether lawful or unlawful—is arguably felt most directly in the communities where aliens reside. State and local responses to unlawfully present aliens within their jurisdictions have varied considerably, particularly as to the role that state and local police should play in enforcing federal immigration law. While some states and municipalities actively participate in or cooperate with federal...

Collective Bargaining and the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute: Selected Legal Issues

Title VII of the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978, commonly referred to as the “Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute” (FSLMRS), recognizes the right of most federal employees to engage in collective bargaining with respect to their conditions of employment. In 2016, 27.4% of all federal employees were members of a union. While the union membership rate for federal workers has declined slightly over the past ten years, it continues to exceed the union membership rate of 6.4% for private-sector employees.

Under the FSLMRS, a labor organization becomes the exclusive...

Sanctuary Jurisdictions and Select Federal Grant Funding Issues: In Brief

On January 25, 2017, President Donald J. Trump issued Executive Order (EO) 13768, “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States.” Among other things, the EO raises questions regarding whether, and to what extent, federal agencies will withhold federal grant funds that would have otherwise been awarded to a designated “sanctuary jurisdiction.” Under the EO, the Secretary of Homeland Security (Secretary) is directed to designate a jurisdiction as a sanctuary jurisdiction at his discretion, and to the extent consistent with law, for those jurisdictions found to have willfully...

News and Transcript Resources: Fact Sheet

Searching for news items can sometimes be challenging. Despite the apparent ease of free online resources like Google News, there is a significant amount of news coverage (especially older or fee-based content) that is not freely available online, and which may be difficult to find. Although dozens of databases exist that contain news articles and transcripts, their content is often available only with a paid subscription, and they may be overwhelming to navigate if the user is not familiar with them. In addition, access to subscription news databases in congressional offices varies,...

House Office of Congressional Ethics: History, Authority, and Procedures

The House Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) was established on March 11, 2008, with the passage of H.Res. 895. It was most recently reauthorized by the House as part of the rules package (H.Res. 5) adopted by the 115th Congress on January 3, 2017.

The office’s establishment followed years of efforts by groups within and outside Congress to create an independent entity to investigate allegations of misconduct by Members, officers, and employees of Congress. During the 110th Congress (2007-2008), Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader John Boehner created the bipartisan...

House Committee on Ethics: A Brief History of Its Evolution and Jurisdiction

The United States Constitution (Article 1, Section 5, clause 1) provides each House of Congress with the sole authority to establish rules, judge membership requirements, and punish and expel Members. From 1789 to 1967, the House of Representatives dealt with disciplinary action against Members on a case-by-case basis, often forming ad-hoc committees to investigate and make recommendations when acts of wrongdoing were brought to the chamber’s attention. Events of the 1960s, including the investigation of Representative Adam Clayton Powell for alleged misuse of Education and Labor Committee...

Legislative Planning: Considerations for Congressional Staff

The Congressional Research Service frequently receives inquiries about legislative planning. Legislative and office action plans are often used by congressional offices for almost every significant project, from organizing an extensive conference in the district or state to introducing and guiding legislation. A major action plan requires a firm understanding of the project’s goal, a research strategy, and a time line for completing the project.

This report presents some of the factors usually considered in preparing an action plan. The information is provided in three sections. The first...

Veterans’ Benefits: Eligibility of Merchant Mariners

Although merchant mariners have supported the Armed Forces in every war fought by the United States, they generally are not considered veterans for the purpose of eligibility for federal benefits. Pursuant to legislation enacted in 1977 (P.L. 95-202) and 1988 (P.L. 105-368) and to decisions made by the Secretary of the Air Force in 1985 and 1988, the following groups of World War II-era merchant mariners are the only merchant mariners eligible for veterans’ benefits.

Eligible for all veterans’ benefits:

United States merchant seamen who served on blockships in support of Operation...

Special Order Speeches: Current House Practices

Special order speeches (commonly called “special orders”) usually take place at the end of the day after the House has completed all legislative business. During the special order period, individual Representatives deliver speeches on topics of their choice for up to 60 minutes. Special orders provide one of the few opportunities for non-legislative debate in the House. They also give Members a chance to speak outside the time restrictions that govern legislative debate in the House and the Committee of the Whole.

The rules of the House do not provide for special order speeches. Instead,...

One-Minute Speeches: Current House Practices

Recognition for one-minute speeches (commonly called “one minutes”) in the House of Representatives is the prerogative of the Speaker. A period for one minutes usually takes place at the beginning of the legislative day after the daily prayer, the Pledge of Allegiance, and approval of the previous day’s Journal. During this time, Representatives ask unanimous consent to address the House for one minute on a topic of their choice. In addition, one-minute speeches are often permitted after legislative business ends, but before special order speeches begin.

The rules of the House do not...

Congressional Member Organizations: Their Purpose and Activities, History, and Formation

This report examines the historical development and contemporary role of congressional Member organizations (CMOs) in the House and informal Member groups in both the House and the Senate. It discusses the differences between CMOs (which register with the Committee on House Administration) and informal Member groups (which do not register with the Committee on House Administration) and the reasons Members form these groups (often referred to as caucuses).

The report also presents the rise and fall of legislative service organizations (LSOs), the House’s decision in 1995 to issue...

Health Benefits for Members of Congress and Designated Congressional Staff: In Brief

Many private- and public-sector firms offer employer-sponsored health insurance to their employees and contribute toward the cost of that insurance as part of the employee’s compensation package. The federal government, as an employer, also offers health benefits to its employees and retirees. In general, federal employees receive health benefits through the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program, administered by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). However, Members of Congress and designated congressional staff receive employer-sponsored insurance (ESI) through the District...

Congressional Careers: Service Tenure and Patterns of Member Service, 1789-2017

The average service tenure of Members of the Senate and House of Representatives has varied substantially since 1789. This report presents data on Member tenure and a historical analysis of tenure trends.

During the 19th century, the average service of Representatives and Senators remained roughly constant, with little or no change over time; the average years of service was slightly higher for the first half of the century than during the second. During the late 19th and through the 20th century, the average years of service for Senators steadily increased, from an average of just under...

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

Since 1970, former Speakers of the House of Representatives have been provided with an allowance after their departure from the House. Currently, the statutorily authorized allowance is available to former Speakers for office space and furnishings, office operations, franked mail, and staff assistance. Use of the allowance is limited to five years, beginning the day of expiration of a Speaker’s tenure as a Representative. Allowances are to be used solely for the administration and conclusion of matters relating to service as a Representative and Speaker of the House.

Special Minimum Wages for Workers with Disabilities: Frequently Asked Questions

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), as amended, sets the minimum wage for covered workers at $7.25 per hour. Section 14(c) of the FLSA permits certified employers to pay a worker with a disability that impairs the worker’s productive capacity a special minimum wage (SMW). The SMW may be below the federal minimum wage but must be commensurate with the worker’s productivity and the job’s prevailing wage. This short report answers common questions related to SMWs. It covers federal legislation that authorizes SMWs; how individuals qualify for SMWs; how employers are certified to pay SMWs and...

Membership of the 114th Congress: A Profile

This report presents a profile of the membership of the 114th Congress (2015-2016). Statistical information is included on selected characteristics of Members, including data on party affiliation, average age, occupation, education, length of congressional service, religious affiliation, gender, ethnicity, foreign births, and military service.

As of December 5, 2016, in the House of Representatives, there are 248 Republicans (including 1 Delegate), 192 Democrats (including 4 Delegates and the Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico), and one vacancy. The Senate has 54 Republicans, 44...

The Committee Markup Process in the House of Representatives

At the beginning of a markup, committee members often make opening statements, usually not exceeding five minutes apiece. The first reading of the text of the bill to be marked up can be waived, either by unanimous consent or by adopting a nondebatable motion. The bill then is read for amendment, one section at a time, with committee members offering their amendments to each section after it is read but before the next section is read. By unanimous consent only, the committee may agree to dispense with the reading of each section, or to consider a bill for amendment by titles or chapters...

Election and Voting Law: Resources for Congressional Staff

This report is intended to serve as a starting point for congressional staff covering voting and elections. It focuses on resources related to laws governing federal elections and voting. It outlines and describes some of the key sources of laws, pending legislation, regulations, cases, CRS Products, and federal agencies working in this subject area. It also contains sections dedicated to the voting process, voting rights, campaign finance, and presidential elections.

Congress’s Early Organization Meetings

Since the mid-1970s, the House and Senate have convened early organization meetings in November or December of even-numbered years to prepare for the start of the new Congress in January.

The purposes of these meetings are both educational and organizational. Educational sessions range from legislative procedures and staff hiring to current issues. Organizational sessions elect class officers, party leaders, and chamber officers; name committee representatives and other party officials; and select committee chairmen and often committee members. Such actions are officially ratified at the...

Legal Processes for Contesting the Results of a Presidential Election

Questions occasionally surface regarding potential voting fraud or election irregularities in presidential elections. (See, for example, Sean Sullivan and Philip Rucker, “Trump’s Claim of Rigged’ Vote Stirs Fears of Trouble,” Washington Post, October 18, 2016, p. A1; Edward-Isaac Dovere, “Fears Mount on Trump’s Rigged Election’ Rhetoric,” Politico, October 16, 2016; Daniel Kurtzleben, “5 Reasons (And Then Some) Not to Worry About A Rigged’ Election,” NPR, October 18, 2016). If legitimate and verifiable allegations of voting fraud, or indications of misconduct by election officials on...

Social Media in the House of Representatives: Frequently Asked Questions

Recently, the number of Member offices adopting social media as an official communications tool has increased. With the increased use of social media accounts for official representational duties, the House has adopted policies and regulations regarding the creation, content, and use of third-party social media services. This report answers several questions about the regulation of social media accounts in the House of Representatives. How does the House define social media? How are social media accounts regulated in the House? What makes a social media account an official resource? Can...

Railroad Retirement Board: Retirement, Survivor, Disability, Unemployment, and Sickness Benefits

The Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) administers retirement, survivor, disability, unemployment, and sickness insurance for railroad workers and their families. Benefits provided by the RRB are separate from those provided by the Social Security system, although the railroad and Social Security systems share common features and are linked in several key ways. This report describes Railroad Retirement Act (RRA) and Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act (RUIA) eligibility requirements, benefit types and compensation amounts, and program financing.

During FY2015, the RRB paid $12.3 billion in...

Veterans’ Benefits: The Department of Veterans Affairs and the Duty to Assist Claimants

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides an array of benefits to veterans and to certain members of their families. These benefits include disability compensation and pensions, education benefits, survivor benefits, medical treatment, life insurance, vocational rehabilitation, and burial and memorial benefits. In order to apply for these benefits, in most circumstances, the claimant will send an application to his or her local VA Regional Office or apply online. Once a veteran has filed an application for benefits with the VA, the agency has a unique obligation to the claimant when...

Overview of the Appeal Process for Veterans’ Claims

Congress, through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), provides a variety of benefits and services to veterans and to certain members of their families. These benefits include disability compensation and pensions, education benefits, survivor benefits, medical treatment, life insurance, vocational rehabilitation, and burial and memorial benefits. In order to receive these benefits, a veteran (or an eligible family member) must apply for them by submitting the necessary information to a local VA office. The local VA office will make an initial determination on the application for...

House of Representatives v. Burwell and Congressional Standing to Sue

On November 21, 2014, the House of Representatives filed a lawsuit against the Departments of Health and Human Services and the Treasury, pursuant to H.Res. 676. House of Representatives v. Burwell included two claims regarding the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). In September 2015, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Circuit issued an opinion addressing the preliminary jurisdictional and justiciability questions at issue in the case. In May 2016, the district court issued its decision on the merits, in which the House prevailed as to...

Digital Searches and Seizures: Overview of Proposed Amendments to Rule 41 of the Rules of Criminal Procedure

With the Rules Enabling Act, Congress granted to the Supreme Court the authority to write federal rules of procedure, including the rules of criminal procedure. After several years of evaluation by the Judicial Conference, the policy-making arm of the federal judiciary, on April 28, 2016, the Supreme Court transmitted to Congress proposed changes to Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. These proposed changes would amend the federal search and seizure rules in two ways. First, they would permit the government to remotely access electronic devices although the location of the...

Patent Cases in the October 2015 Term of the U.S. Supreme Court: Halo Electronics v. Pulse Electronics and Cuozzo Speed Technologies v. Lee

This report examines the two patent law cases decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in its October 2015 Term. The first patent case, decided on June 13, 2016, Halo Electronics, Inc. v. Pulse Electronics, Inc., concerns the circumstances in which the awarding of enhanced damages in a patent infringement case are warranted and the discretion of the district courts to award them. Section 284 of the Patent Act provides that the court may increase damages up to three times the amount found by a jury or assessed by the court, but does not provide any guidance to the court, or any express limits or...

Corporate Inversions: Frequently Asked Legal Questions

In general, corporate inversions are transactions in which a U.S. corporation “inverts” its ownership structure so that it now has a foreign parent. There are various ways in which this can be achieved. Corporate inversions have been controversial because it appears, in at least some cases, the primary motivation is the reduction of U.S. income tax liability.

In 2004, Congress added Section 7874 to the Internal Revenue Code (IRC), which significantly limits the tax benefits associated with corporate inversions. While Section 7874 appeared to slow the rate of inversions in the years...

FATCA Reporting on U.S. Accounts: Recent Legal Developments

Enacted in 2010, the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) is intended to curb U.S. tax evasion occurring through the use of offshore accounts. Key among its provisions is the requirement that foreign financial institutions (FFIs), such as foreign banks and hedge funds, report information on their U.S. account holders to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). FFIs that fail to comply will have tax withheld at a rate of 30% on many payments made to them from U.S. sources, including interest and dividends.

Since FATCA’s passage, there has been international criticism of the FFI provisions,...

Carcieri v. Salazar: The Secretary of the Interior May Not Acquire Trust Land for the Narragansett Indian Tribe Under 25 U.S.C. Section 465 Because That Statute Applies to Tribes “Under Federal Jurisdiction” in 1934

In Carcieri v. Salazar, 555 U.S. 379 (2009), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a 1934 statute provides no authority for the Secretary of the Interior (SOI) to take land into trust for the Narragansett Indian Tribe (Tribe) because the statute applies only to tribes under federal jurisdiction when that law was enacted. The reach of the decision may be broad because it relies on the major statute under which the SOI acquires land in trust for the benefit of Indians. It affects the SOI’s authority to take land into trust for any recently recognized tribe unless the trust acquisition has been...

Airline Passenger Rights: The Federal Role in Aviation Consumer Protection

The 1978 deregulation of the airline industry in the United States eliminated federal control over many airline business practices, including pricing and domestic route selection. However, the federal government continues to legislate and enforce certain consumer protections for airline passengers. Congress largely determines the degree to which the rights of airline passengers are codified in law or developed through regulatory rulemaking.

The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation are the primary...

Cybersecurity Issues and Challenges: In Brief

The information and communications technology (ICT) industry has evolved greatly over the last half century. The technology is ubiquitous and increasingly integral to almost every facet of modern society. ICT devices and components are generally interdependent, and disruption of one may affect many others. Over the past several years, experts and policymakers have expressed increasing concerns about protecting ICT systems from cyberattacks, which many experts expect to increase in frequency and severity over the next several years.

The act of protecting ICT systems and their contents has...

Repair, Modification, or Resale of Software-Enabled Consumer Electronic Devices: Copyright Law Issues

Modern consumer electronic devices and products often contain software programs that facilitate their operations or provide automation, Wi-Fi and smartphone connectivity, remote control, and other sophisticated functions. Equipment manufacturers have integrated software in televisions, refrigerators, thermostats, coffee makers, garage door openers, automobiles, vacuums, printers, and medical devices. When consumers buy these “software-enabled” products from retailers, they acquire ownership of the physical hardware, but may only receive a limited license (a form of legal permission) to use...

The President’s Pardon Power and Legal Effects on Collateral Consequences

Article II of the U.S. Constitution vests the President with the power “to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.” The President’s pardon power, which derives from English custom, is an extraordinary remedy that is sought by many but received by few. The President may use his clemency authority only for criminal penalties, not civil. Moreover, he may use his clemency authority to pardon federal offenses but not state offenses.

Typically, individuals receive either a pardon or a commutation of sentence, each of which is a type of...

Health Care Fraud and Abuse Laws Affecting Medicare and Medicaid: An Overview

A number of federal statutes aim to combat fraud and abuse in federally funded health care programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. Using these statutes, the federal government has been able to recover billions of dollars lost due to fraudulent activities. This report provides an overview of some of the more commonly used federal statutes used to fight health care fraud and abuse.

Title XI of the Social Security Act contains Medicare and Medicaid program-related anti-fraud provisions, which impose civil penalties, criminal penalties, and exclusions from federal health care programs on...

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

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

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

Congressional Salaries and Allowances: In Brief

This report provides basic information on congressional salaries and allowances.

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

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

Campaign Contributions and the Ethics of Elected Officials: Regulation Under Federal Law

Allegations of political corruption often involve questions regarding a public official or candidate’s use of campaign funds or the relationship between campaign contributors and the candidate or official. A common concern is that a particular individual, private organization, company, or other entity “bought”—through large campaign contributions widely distributed—particular official favors, official acts, or official forbearance from officers or employees of the federal government. These issues have been highlighted in several high-profile cases over recent years. In 2016, the Supreme...

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) Child Labor Provisions

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938 prohibits the employment of “oppressive child labor” in the United States, which the act defines—with some exceptions—as the employment of youth under the age of 16 in any occupation or the employment of youth under 18 years old in hazardous occupations. The act includes several exemptions, however, that create a complex set of thresholds that depend on the child’s age, local school hours, the nature of the work (e.g., occupation, industry, and work environment), parental involvement in the child’s employment, and other factors. Notably,...

Expulsion, Censure, Reprimand, and Fine: Legislative Discipline in the House of Representatives

The House of Representatives—in the same manner as the United States Senate—is expressly authorized within the United States Constitution (Article I, Section 5, clause 2) to discipline or “punish” its own Members. This authority of the House to discipline a Member for “disorderly Behaviour” is in addition to any criminal or civil liability that a Member of the House may incur for particular misconduct, and is used not merely to punish an individual Member, but to protect the institutional integrity of the House of Representatives, its proceedings, and its reputation.

The House may...

Nonprofit Challenges to the Contraceptive Coverage Requirement: The Meaning of Substantial Burdens on Religious Exercise Under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act

In the spring of 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court considered a set of challenges alleging that the contraceptive coverage regulations under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) violate the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Following oral arguments in which the eight sitting Justices appeared to be evenly divided, the Court unanimously declined to declare an answer in the set of seven consolidated cases, each brought by nonprofit religious entities with objections to the provision and use of contraceptives as well as to the process by which their objections may be accommodated under...

Financial Aid for Students: Online Resources

This report identifies various online sources for planning and acquiring funds for postsecondary education. Students themselves are often in the best position to determine which aid programs they may qualify for and which best meet their needs. This list includes both general and comprehensive sources, as well as those targeted toward specific types of aid and circumstances (e.g., non-need-based scholarships; female and minority students; students studying abroad; or veterans, military personnel, and their dependents). The selection of a resource for inclusion in this report is based upon...

Social Media in Congress: The Impact of Electronic Media on Member Communications

The mediums through which Members and constituents communicate have changed significantly over American history and continue to evolve today. Whereas most communications traditionally occurred through the media, via postal mail, or over a telephone, the adoption and use of electronic communications via email and social media technologies (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and other sites) changes how Representatives and Senators disseminate and gather information, who they communicate with, and what types of information they share and receive from the general public, many not residing in...

Who Is a “Veteran”?—Basic Eligibility for Veterans’ Benefits

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers a broad range of benefits to U.S. Armed Forces veterans and certain members of their families. Among these benefits are various types of financial assistance, including monthly cash payments to disabled veterans, health care, education, and housing. Basic criteria must be met to be eligible to receive any of the benefits administered by the VA.

This report examines the basic eligibility criteria for VA administered veterans’ benefits, including the issue of eligibility of members of the National Guard and reserve components.

For a former...

Pay Equity: Legislative and Legal Developments

According to some federal data, on average, full-time female workers earn approximately 20% less than full-time male workers. At least a portion of this gap is due to observable factors such as hours worked and the concentration of female workers in lower-paid occupations. Some interpret these data as evidence that discrimination, if present at all, is a minor factor in the pay differentials and conclude that no policy changes are necessary. Conversely, advocates for further policy interventions note that some of the explanatory factors of the pay gap (such as occupation and hours worked)...

Federal Student Aid: Need Analysis Formulas and Expected Family Contribution

This report describes the need analysis formulas used to calculate the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) for federal student aid applicants. The formulas are codified in Title IV of the Higher Education Act (HEA), as amended. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the data collection instrument through which students submit the information that is used to calculate the EFC.

The HEA has three EFC formulas: one for dependent students and one each for independent students with and without dependents. A student’s dependency status is determined by the student’s age and other...

Franking Privilege: Historical Development and Options for Change

The franking privilege, which allows Members of Congress to transmit mail matter under their signature without postage, has existed in the United States since colonial times. During the 18th and 19th centuries, the franking privilege served a fundamental democratic role, allowing Members of Congress to convey information to their constituents about the operations of government and policy matters before Congress. Conversely, it also provided a mechanism for citizens to communicate their feelings and concerns to Members (prior to 1873, Members could both send and receive mail under the...

Franking Privilege: Mass Mailings and Mass Communications in the House, 1997-2015

Despite significant reductions in congressional mail postage costs over the past 25 years, critics continue to raise concerns about the franking privilege. While proponents of the franking privilege argue that the frank allows Members to fulfill their representational duties by providing for greater communication between the Member and individual constituents, critics argue that it is both financially wasteful and gives an unfair advantage to incumbents in congressional elections. In particular, mass mailings have come under increased scrutiny as critics argue that the vast majority of...

General Policy Statements: Legal Overview

Agencies frequently use guidance documents to set regulatory policy. While “legislative rules” carry the force of law and are required to undergo the notice and comment procedures of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), guidance documents are exempt from these constraints and can be issued more swiftly than legislative rules. The issuance of such guidance documents, however, has not escaped criticism. Some have argued that agencies use guidance documents to effectively change the law or expand the scope of their delegated regulatory authorities. This report focuses on agency use and...

Congressional Official Mail Costs

The congressional franking privilege allows Members of Congress to send official mail via the U.S. Postal Service at government expense. This report provides information and analysis on the costs of franked mail in the House of Representatives and Senate.

In FY2015, total expenditures on official mail were $8.3 million. House official mail costs ($6.8 million) were 82% of the total, whereas Senate official mail costs ($1.5 million) were 18% of the total. In FY2014, total expenditures on official mail were $16.9 million. House official mail costs ($15.1 million) were 89% of the total,...

Hatch Act Restrictions on Federal Employees’ Political Activities in the Digital Age

Federal officers and employees historically have been subject to certain limitations when engaging in partisan political activities. Although they have always retained their right to vote and privately express political opinions, for most of the last century, they were prohibited from being actively involved in political management or political campaigns. At the beginning of the 20th century, civil service rules imposed a general ban on voluntary, off-duty participation in partisan politics by merit system employees. The ban prohibited employees from using their “official authority or...

Surveillance of Foreigners Outside the United States Under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA)

After the attacks of September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush authorized the National Security Agency to conduct a Terrorist Surveillance Program (TSP) to “intercept international communications into and out of the United States” by “persons linked to al Qaeda or related terrorist organizations.” After the TSP activities were concluded in 2007, Congress enacted the Protect America Act (PAA, P.L. 110-55), which established a mechanism for the acquisition, via a joint certification by the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) and the Attorney General (AG), but without an individualized...

Class Action Litigation: The Court and Congress

The class action suit is a procedural device for joining numerous parties in a civil lawsuit when the issues involved are common to the class as a whole and when the issues turn on questions of law applicable in the same manner to each member of the class. Class actions are intended to save the resources of both the courts and the parties by permitting an issue potentially affecting every class member to be litigated together in an economical fashion. The class action is also intended to allow parties to pursue a legal remedy when it is not economically feasible to obtain relief, such as...

Net Neutrality: Selected Legal Issues Raised by the FCC’s 2015 Open Internet Order

In February 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted an order that will impose rules governing the management of Internet traffic as it passes over broadband Internet access services (BIAS), whether those services are fixed or wireless. The rules are commonly known as “net neutrality” rules. The order was released in March 2015 and published in the Federal Register on April 13, 2015. The order took effect on June 12, 2015. According to the order, the rules ban the blocking of legal content, forbid paid prioritization of affiliated or proprietary content, and prohibit the...

Telemarketing Regulation: National and State Do Not Call Registries

Today, it is axiomatic that telemarketers in the United States generally are not permitted to place outgoing telemarketing calls to phone numbers on the National Do Not Call List, unless an exception applies. This was not always the case, however. The National Do Not Call Registry was authorized by Congress and implemented by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in response to widespread frustration on the part of citizens with what were perceived to be abusive telemarketing practices. Particularly irritating and invasive were the numerous...

Aliens’ Right to Counsel in Removal Proceedings: In Brief

The scope of aliens’ right to counsel in removal proceedings is a topic of recurring congressional and public interest. This topic is complicated, in part, because the term right to counsel can refer to either (1) the right to counsel of one’s own choice at one’s own expense, or (2) the right of indigent persons to counsel at the government’s expense. A right to counsel can also arise from multiple sources, including the Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), other federal statutes, and federal regulations. Further, in some cases,...

Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA): Congressional Interest and Executive Enforcement, In Brief

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 (FCPA) was enacted principally to prevent corporate bribery of foreign officials. This act had three major parts: (1) it required the keeping by corporations of accurate books, records, and accounts; (2) it required issuers registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission to maintain a responsible internal accounting control system; and (3) it prohibited bribery by American corporations of foreign officials.

For a number of years after passage of the act, Congress debated amending it in response to numerous criticisms. On August 23, 1988, the...

The Work Opportunity Tax Credit

The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) is a provision of the Internal Revenue Code that allows employers that hire individuals with certain personal characteristics to claim a tax credit equal to a portion of the wages paid to those individuals. WOTC-eligible populations include recipients of certain public benefits (such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or Temporary Assistance to Needy Families), qualified veterans, ex-felons, and other specified populations. In 2015, the WOTC was extended through 2019 as part of the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015...

Legal Issues with Federal Labeling of Genetically Engineered Food: In Brief

Genetically engineered (GE) foods, sometimes referred to as genetically modified foods (GMO foods), are foods that are derived from scientific methods used to introduce new traits or characteristics to an organism. The labeling of GE foods has been the subject of debate among members of the general public and federal and state governments since the introduction of GE foods to the food supply in the 1990s.

Federal law does not impose specific labeling requirements on a food just because it may or may not contain GE ingredients or was derived using GE techniques. The Food and Drug...

Veterans’ Benefits: Burial Benefits and National Cemeteries

Burial benefits are nonmonetary and monetary benefits that eligible veterans receive for their military service. Servicemembers and veterans have been provided nonmonetary burial benefits since the Civil War and monetary burial benefits since World War I.

Eligible veterans and active duty members of the Armed Forces can be interred in national cemeteries and can receive government-furnished headstones or markers, and in their honor, next of kin can receive presidential memorial certificates and burial flags. Their spouses or surviving spouses, minor children, and, under certain conditions,...

Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies: History, Membership, and Inaugural Activities

Every four years, at noon on January 20, the President-elect is sworn in as President of the United States. The year before the inauguration, Congress establishes the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies. The Joint Inaugural Committee is responsible for the planning and execution of the swearing-in ceremony and hosting an inaugural luncheon for the President and Vice President at the U.S. Capitol. Pursuant to S.Con.Res. 28 and S.Con.Res. 29 in the 114th Congress (2015-2016), the 2017 inaugural ceremony will be held at the U.S. Capitol, with the swearing-in ceremony on the...

Perspectives on Federal Cybersecurity Spending

The federal government invests significant resources in cybersecurity across every agency through a variety of activities. Although a methodologically rigorous total for these investments has not been calculated and may not be possible, an understanding of how the federal government applies resources to protect U.S. public and private sector data and networks from cyberattacks is necessary for Congress to provide constructive oversight of those efforts.

This report considers federal cybersecurity investments in three broad categories:

Agency spending to protect its own systems, networks,...

Legal Issues Associated with FDA Standards of Identity: In Brief

Standards of identity for foods overseen by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) generally define the composition of a food, prescribing both mandatory and optional ingredients and fixing the relative proportions of each ingredient. This report addresses the following legal issues associated with the promulgation and enforcement of standards of identity for foods.

Section 401 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) establishes the legal authority for the FDA to promulgate standards of identity for food. According to this statutory authority, a standard of identity for a...

Federal Grant Financial Reporting Requirements and Databases: Frequently Asked Questions

Congress and federal agencies frequently undertake initiatives to conduct oversight of federal grant programs and expenditures. The ability to oversee is influenced by the existing reporting requirements placed on recipients of federal grant funds. Limitations in accessing information contained in federal databases used to collect grant data also influence the level of transparency into the use of federal grant funds. Congress has also debated the reporting burden placed on federal grant recipients and how to balance grant recipient capacity with the desire for transparency into the use of...

Overview of Major Federal Securities Laws: In Brief

This report discusses in a very general way the major federal securities laws. The major federal securities laws may be grouped into two categories according to the time of their passage: the acts passed in the wake of the stock market crash of 1929 and the acts passed later in the 20th century and early in the 21st century. The acts in the first group include the most important of the federal securities acts: the Securities Act of 1933, which concerns the initial registration of securities, and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, which requires ongoing disclosure reports. The acts in the...

Apprenticeship in the United States: Frequently Asked Questions

Apprenticeship is a job training strategy that combines on-the-job training with related instruction, typically provided in a classroom setting. This report answers frequently asked questions about apprenticeship and the federal activities that support this training approach.

This Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) report focuses on the Registered Apprenticeship system, through which the U.S. Department of Labor (or a recognized state apprenticeship agency) certifies a program as meeting federal requirements related to duration, intensity, and benefit to the apprentice. Historically, the...

Legislative Support Resources: Offices and Websites for Congressional Staff

This report, one of a series of reports on the legislative process, provides a brief list of telephone numbers, room numbers, and Internet addresses of use to new congressional staffers who work with legislative procedures and conduct legislative research. Internet access restrictions are noted. Some of the websites listed are available only to congressional offices; other sites are restricted further and are only available to House or Senate offices. This report is intended for congressional use only and will be updated annually.

The Animal Welfare Act: Background and Selected Animal Welfare Legislation

In 1966, Congress passed the Laboratory Animal Welfare Act (P.L. 89-54) to prevent pets from being stolen for sale to research laboratories, and to regulate the humane care and handling of dogs, cats, and other laboratory animals. Farm animals are not covered by the AWA. The law was amended in 1970 (P.L. 91-579), changing the name to the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). The AWA is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). Congress periodically amends the act to strengthen enforcement, expand coverage to more animals and activities, or...

The President’s State of the Union Address: Tradition, Function, and Policy Implications

The State of the Union address is a communication between the President and Congress in which the chief executive reports on the current conditions of the United States and provides policy proposals for the upcoming legislative year. Formerly known as the “Annual Message,” the State of the Union address originates in the Constitution. As part of the system of checks and balances, Article II, Section 3, clause 1 mandates that the President “shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge...

Sex Discrimination and the United States Supreme Court: Developments in the Law

In its sex discrimination decisions, the United States Supreme Court not only has defined the applicability of the equal protection guarantees of the Constitution and the nondiscriminatory policies of federal statutes, but also has rejected the use of gender stereotypes and has continued to recognize the discriminatory effect of gender hostility in the workplace and in schools. This report focuses on sex discrimination challenges based on: the equal protection guarantees of the Fourteenth and Fifth Amendments; the prohibition against employment discrimination contained in Title VII of the...

Legal Protections for Subcontractors on Federal Prime Contracts: In Brief

Payment and other protections for subcontractors on federal contracts are of perennial interest to Members and committees of Congress, in part, because many subcontractors are small businesses, and it is the “declared policy of the Congress that the Government should aid, counsel, assist, and protect, insofar as is possible, the interests of small business concerns.” Subcontractors on federal contracts do not have “privity of contract”—or a direct contractual relationship—with the federal government. As such, subcontractors would generally lack the payment and other protections that...

Legal Authority for Aliens to Claim Refundable Tax Credits: In Brief

The question is frequently asked whether aliens who enter or remain in the United States in violation of federal immigration law (called unlawfully present aliens for purposes of this report) are permitted to claim refundable tax credits. There is no general provision in the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) prohibiting unlawfully present aliens from claiming refundable tax credits. Rather, the restrictions that exist are established on a credit-by-credit basis. For example, one credit—the earned income tax credit (EITC)—requires that taxpayers provide work-authorized Social Security numbers...

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA): Background and Supreme Court Cases

Congress passed the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in 1993 in part to “balance the demands of the workplace with the needs of families.” To that end, the FMLA entitles eligible employees of covered employers to set amounts of unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons. These reasons include, for example, the care of a spouse, son, daughter, or parent with a serious health condition, and the care of a newborn or newly adopted child. Employers who interfere with an employee’s exercise of FMLA rights or retaliate against an employee for exercising her FMLA...

The NLRB's Enforcement of the NLRA Against Tribal Employers and the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act of 2015, H.R. 511 and S. 248

The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) provides workers with the right to collectively bargain with employers and requires employers to bargain in good faith. The NLRA excludes from the definition of the term “employer” “the United States or any wholly owned government corporation or any state or political subdivision thereof.” The NLRA does not specify whether Indian tribal employers are covered.

Prior to 2004, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the agency responsible for enforcing the NLRA, followed a rule that excluded from the NLRA tribal employers located on tribal land, but...

Securities Fraud Class Action Certification: Halliburton Co. v. Erica P. John Fund, Inc.

On June 23, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court decided a much-anticipated case in the area of federal securities law: Halliburton Co. v. Erica P. John Fund, Inc. The history of the case spans more than a decade, through three rounds in federal district court and two rounds in the court of appeals and the Supreme Court. All of the cases so far have dealt with the issue of class certification for securities fraud plaintiffs. The merits of the case have not yet been considered.

Class certification is important in the area of securities law because the merits of the case cannot be considered until...

Social Security and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) Provisions in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015

Title VIII of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 (H.R. 1314, P.L. 114-74) makes several changes to the Social Security programs. Among these changes is a temporary reallocation of the Social Security payroll taxes so that a larger share is deposited in the Disability Insurance (DI) trust fund to extend the life of this trust fund beyond its current predicted exhaustion in 2016. Under this provision, the allocation of the 12.40% Social Security payroll tax assigned to the DI trust fund increases from 1.80% to 2.37% and the allocation to the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) trust fund...

Supreme Court Appointment Process: Senate Debate and Confirmation Vote

The procedure for appointing a Justice to the Supreme Court is provided for in the U.S. Constitution in only a few words. The “Appointments Clause” in the Constitution (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 ... Judges of the supreme Court.” While the process of appointing Justices has undergone some changes over two centuries, its most essential feature—the sharing of power between the President and the Senate—has remained unchanged: To receive lifetime appointment to the Court, one...

Pharmaceutical Patent-Antitrust: Reverse Payment Settlements and Product Hopping

Congressional attention has recently been directed towards two practices within the pharmaceutical industry. The first pertains to “reverse payment” or “pay-for-delay” settlements of patent litigation. Under this scenario, a generic firm agrees to neither challenge the brand-name company’s patents nor sell a generic version of the patented drug for a period of time. In exchange, the brand-name drug company agrees to compensate the generic firm, sometimes with substantial monetary payments over a number of years. Because the payment flows counterintuitively, from the patent owner to the...

The World Trade Organization Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade and Recent Food Labeling Cases

The World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT Agreement) contains obligations that WTO members must adhere to when they impose requirements on a product’s characteristics. Countries typically implement such requirements in order to protect human health or the environment, prevent deceptive practices, or further other legitimate policy goals. However, these measures can be trade-distorting, and sometimes countries implement such regulations solely to protect domestic markets. To that end, the TBT Agreement is intended to balance the need to protect...

Copyright Licensing in Music Distribution, Reproduction, and Public Performance

This report provides an overview of the complexities of the Copyright Act’s provisions concerning music licensing. It also discusses four issues involving copyrights in musical works and sound recordings that have been the subject of recent congressional and judicial consideration: (1) extending copyright protection to pre-1972 sound recordings; (2) requiring radio broadcasters to compensate recording artists; (3) changing the standard used to calculate royalties for digital music transmissions; and (4) modifying antitrust consent decrees governing songwriter performance royalties....

Veterans’ Benefits: Pension Benefit Programs

This report discusses selected veteran pension programs administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA):

The Improved Disability Pension makes payments to certain low-income veterans. In FY2013, the program paid an average benefit of about $11,300 to about 310,000 beneficiaries.

The Improved Death Pension makes payments to certain low-income spouses or children of deceased veterans. In FY2013, the program paid an average benefit of about $7,000 to about 210,000 beneficiaries.

The Medal of Honor Pension makes payments to veterans who were awarded the Medal of Honor. Fewer than 100...

Europe's Migration and Refugee Crisis

This report discusses the migration and refugee crisis in Europe, as people flee conflict and poverty in neighboring regions. Many are from the Middle East and Africa; others come from Ukraine, as well as Kosovo and elsewhere in the Western Balkans. Experts have characterized the influxes as mixed migration, defined as flows of different groups of people--such as economic migrants, refugees, asylum-seekers, stateless persons, trafficked persons, and unaccompanied children--who travel the same routes and use the same modes of transportation.

House Rules Governing Committee Markup Procedures

The rules of the House provide only general guidance to committees for conducting meetings to mark up legislation. There are no House rules that explicitly govern the various aspects of markup procedure. Instead, clause 1(a)(1) of Rule XI provides in part that “the Rules of the House are the rules of its committees and subcommittees so far as applicable.... ” And clause 2(a)(1) of the same rule directs each standing committee to adopt written rules governing its own procedures that “may be not inconsistent with the Rules of the House.... ” (Italics added).

These requirements leave many...

Follow-On Biologics: Intellectual Property Issues

The term “biologics” refers to a category of medical preparations derived from a living organism. These medicines have added notable therapeutic options for many diseases and impacted fields such as oncology and rheumatology. The biologics industry invests extensively in R&D and contributes to a rapidly expanding market for these treatments. Biologics are often costly, however, in part due to the sophistication of the technologies and the manufacturing techniques needed to make them.

Compared to the number of generic drugs available in traditional pharmaceutical markets, few “follow-on”...

Amendments on the House Floor: Summary of Major Restrictions

Congressional Research Service 7-5700 www.crs.gov 98-426 The opportunities for Representatives to offer floor amendments to a bill or resolution depends on the procedures by which the House considers the measure. In summary: After general debate on a bill in the Committee of the Whole, Members may offer whatever amendments they choose if (1) those amendments comply with applicable House rules and precedents, some of which are identified below; (2) Members offer their amendments at the appropriate times; and (3) the House has not adopted a special rule that prohibits consideration of some...

Amendment Process in the Committee of the Whole

Congressional Research Service 7-5700 www.crs.gov 98-439 Contents Reading for Amendment 1 Debating an Amendment 1 Amendment Tree: Degrees of Amendments 2 Voting on Amendments 2

Contacts Author Contact Information 2

Summary Amendments are usually considered not in the House, but in the Committee of the Whole, a parliamentary device designed to expedite the amendment process. For example, in the House, Members are generally recognized under the “hour rule;” in the Committee of the Whole, they are recognized to speak under the “five-minute rule.” A quorum in the House is 218; in the...

Overview of Farm Safety Net Programs

A Guide to U.S. Military Casualty Statistics: Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, Operation Inherent Resolve, Operation New Dawn, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation Enduring Freedom

This report presents statistics regarding U.S. military and civilian casualties in the active missions Operation Freedom’s Sentinel (OFS, Afghanistan) and Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR, Iraq and Syria) and, as well as operations that have ended, Operation New Dawn (OND, Iraq), Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF, Iraq), and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF, Afghanistan). It also includes statistics on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), and amputations. Some of these statistics are publicly available at the Department of Defense’s (DOD’s) website and others have...

History of the Navy UCLASS Program Requirements: In Brief

During its development, the U.S. Navy’s Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) aircraft and its predecessors have been proposed to fill a number of roles and operate in a variety of air defense environments. Over time, those requirements have evolved to encompass a less demanding set of capabilities than first envisioned. This report details the history of UCLASS requirements development through the program’s evolution to its current stage.

Fetal Tissue Research: Frequently Asked Questions

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

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

Who Pays for Long-Term Services and Supports? A Fact Sheet

Long-term services and supports (LTSS) refer to a broad range of health and health-related services and supports that are needed by individuals over an extended period of time. The need for LTSS affects persons of all ages and is generally measured by limitations in an individual’s ability to perform daily personal care activities (e.g., eating, bathing, dressing, walking) or activities that allow individuals to live independently in the community (e.g., shopping, housework, meal preparation). The most recent published data estimating the number of Americans in need of LTSS indicate that...

Debt Limit Legislation: The House "Gephardt Rule"

Essentially all of the outstanding debt of the federal government is subject to a statutory limit, which is set forth as a dollar limitation in 31 U.S.C. 3101(b). From time to time, Congress considers and passes legislation to adjust or suspend this limit.

Former House Rule XXVIII (commonly referred to as the “Gephardt rule,” named after its author, former Representative Richard Gephardt) allowed the House to pass debt limit legislation without requiring a separate vote on the initial consideration of such legislation. The rule, which was established by P.L. 96-78 and first applied in...

Charter-Time Warner Cable-Bright House Networks Mergers: Overview and Issues

In May 2015, Charter Communications, Inc. announced that it reached agreements with Time Warner Cable Inc. (TWC) to merge the two companies in a deal valued at $78.7 billion, including the assumption of debt, and with Advance/Newhouse Partnership to acquire Bright House Networks (BHN) for $10.4 billion. The combination of Charter, TWC, and BHN would create a single entity providing cable television and broadband access service to 23.9 million customers in 41 states, making it the nation’s second-largest cable television operator and broadband access provider.

The proposed merger raises a...

What are the Department of Defense (DOD) Policies on Transgender Service?

This report briefly discusses Department of Defense Policies regarding transgender service.

Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Order: Answers to Questions

This report discusses Executive Order 13673, Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces, which has the stated intent of increasing “efficiency and cost savings” by ensuring that executive branch procurement contractors understand and comply with labor laws.

The European Union and China

Proposed Amendments to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) in the 114th Congress: S. 697, S. 725, and H.R. 2576

Enacted in 1976, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) is the primary federal law that governs the regulation of chemicals in commerce. TSCA authorizes the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to determine whether regulatory control of a chemical substance is necessary to provide protection against “unreasonable risks” to those who are potentially exposed or to the environment. For several years leading up to the 114th Congress, there have been various legislative proposals to amend Title I of TSCA to revise the chemical evaluation process and the criteria by which chemical substances...

Crisis in Greece: Political Implications

This report briefly discusses the political crisis resulting from what began as a debt crisis in Greece in late 2009. Many analysts believe that this political crisis could represent the most significant setback in over 60 years of European integration.

How the Federal Sentencing Guidelines Work: An Abridged Overview

Sentencing for all serious federal noncapital crimes begins with the federal Sentencing Guidelines. Congress establishes the maximum penalty and sometimes the minimum penalty for every federal crime by statute. In between, the Guidelines establish a series of escalating sentencing ranges based on the circumstances of the offense and the criminal record of the offender. The Guidelines do so using a score-keeping procedure. The Guidelines process involves:

I. Identification of the most appropriate Guidelines section for the crime(s) of conviction, based on the nature of the offense (the most...

Life-Cycle Greenhouse Gas Assessment of Coal and Natural Gas in the Power Sector

Recent expansion in natural gas production has made the resource an increasingly significant component in the U.S. energy market. Further, a number of policies recently proposed and/or promulgated at the federal, state, and local levels may serve to accelerate this development. Examples of federal policies include U.S. Environmental Protection Agency air standards for power plants and vehicles, as well as bills introduced in the 114th Congress to promote increased natural gas production on federal lands, amend provisions in the tax code to incentivize natural gas production and use, and...

Instructing Senate Conferees

The Senate and House often create a conference committee to propose the final version of a bill that the two houses have passed in different forms. Sometimes, the Senate votes to instruct its conferees on the nature of the agreement they should reach. These instructions are not binding, and they may not ask conferees to reach an agreement that goes beyond their authority. Conferees may be instructed by motion only before they are appointed; thereafter, they may be instructed by resolution, amendment, or motion to recommit.

Indonesia: Background and U.S. Relations

This report provides background information on social and political situation in Indonesia and its relations with United States.

Sex Trafficking: An Abbreviated Overview of Federal Criminal Law

Sex trafficking is a state crime. Federal law, however, makes it a federal crime to conduct the activities of a sex trafficking enterprise in a way that affects interstate or foreign commerce or that involves travel in interstate or foreign commerce. Section 1591 of Title 18 of the United States Code outlaws sex trafficking activities that affect interstate or foreign commerce. The Mann Act outlaws sex trafficking activities that involve travel in interstate or foreign commerce. The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015 (Victims Justice Act; P.L. 114-22/S. 178) amended both §1591...

Preemption in Proposed Amendments to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA): Side-by-Side Analysis of S. 697 and H.R. 2576

The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) was enacted in 1976 to govern the regulation of chemical substances in U.S. commerce. Its core provisions have not been significantly amended since that time. Under TSCA, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has implemented a chemicals management program over the past four decades. EPA has issued a very limited number of risk management rules under TSCA to restrict chemicals it has found to present unreasonable risks of injury to human health or the environment. Meanwhile, states and, in a few cases, local subdivisions of states have enacted an...

U.S.-North Korea Relations

Wildfire Statistics

Pass-Throughs, Corporations, and Small Businesses: A Look at Firm Size

In debates over tax policy, it is not uncommon for pass-throughs to be viewed as small businesses and for corporations to be viewed as large businesses. This report uses 2011 U.S. Census data to investigate how the size of businesses varies by legal form (corporate versus pass-through). Firm size is based on employment. The analysis finds that the majority of both corporations and pass-throughs in 2011 had fewer than five employees (56% of C corporations and 65% of pass-throughs). Over 99% of both corporations and pass-throughs had fewer than 500 employees, the most common employment-based...

Timeline Related to Health Insurance and Exchange Rules: Backdrop to King v. Burwell

The Supreme Court is expected to issue a decision in King v. Burwell by the end of June. The central issue in the case is whether the Affordable Care Act (ACA; P.L. 111-148, as amended) gives authority to the U.S. Department of the Treasury to make premium tax credits available to eligible individuals in every state (including the District of Columbia) or just the states that choose to establish their own health insurance exchanges (state-based exchanges, or SBEs).

As of the date of this report, the direction and scope of the Court decision is unknown. However, it is generally agreed that...

Farm-to-Food Price Dynamics

Heightened commodity price volatility since 2008—driven by major market-shifting events, including increased demand for corn under strong federal biofuels incentives, a prolonged surge in China’s soybean import demand, and the severe U.S. drought of 2012—has generated many questions about linkages between farm commodity prices and U.S. food price inflation from Members of Congress and their constituents. This report responds to those concerns by addressing the linkage between farm and retail food prices. Retail food price inflation is addressed in CRS Report R40545, Consumers and Food...

Modification of Child Support Orders: Background, Policy, and Concerns

Child support orders are almost always expressed in fixed dollar amounts, and over time the needs of the child and the financial circumstances of one or both parents may change. However, without periodic modifications, child support obligations can become inadequate and/or inequitable or may not correspond to the noncustodial parent’s income and/or ability to pay.

Under current law (pursuant to P.L. 109-171, the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005), states are required to review and, if appropriate, adjust child support orders at least once every three years in cases in which the family is...

FY2016 NDAA: A Comparison of House and Senate Provisions for Military Retirement Reform

This report discusses the military retirement system, which is a funded, noncontributory, defined benefit system that provides a monthly annuity to servicemembers after 20 years of qualifying service.

Overview of EPA and the Army Corps’ Rule to Define “Waters of the United States”

This report describes the revised rule of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) which defines the scope of waters protected under the Clean Water Act (CWA).

Laos

Monuments and Memorials in the District of Columbia: Analysis and Options for Proposed Exemptions to the Commemorative Works Act

During the course of each Congress, numerous proposals to create new commemorative works (i.e., monuments and memorials) in the District of Columbia are introduced. In evaluating each proposal, Congress considers the subject of the proposed work; whether existing monuments and memorials commemorate similar subjects; and whether the sponsor group has requested an exemption from existing laws that might limit monument and memorial subjects and location within the District of Columbia. This report focuses on options for Congress for four types of exemptions to the Commemorative Works Act...

The Social Security Retirement Age: In Brief

Workers may claim full Social Security benefits at the full retirement age (FRA), which is rising gradually to age 67 for workers who were born in 1960 or later. Retired workers may claim benefits as early as age 62, which is known as the early eligibility age (EEA). Social Security benefits are reduced, however, for every month that retired worker benefits are claimed before the FRA.

Nigeria

Marijuana and Federal Tax Law: In Brief

As an increasing number of states have permitted the use of marijuana for medical and recreational uses, questions have arisen about the federal income tax consequences for businesses that sell marijuana and their buyers.

There is no question that income from selling marijuana is taxable to the seller, regardless of whether such sale is legal or not under federal or state law. While such income is taxable, the seller will be limited in its ability to deduct business expenses and claim tax credits. This is because Section 280E of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) disallows a deduction or...

Venezuela: U.S. Policy Overview

Motions to Proceed to Consider Measures in the Senate: Who Offers Them?

In recent practice, the Senate generally cedes to its majority leader the prerogative of calling up items of business for floor consideration. Most measures are brought to the floor by unanimous consent, but when this consent cannot be obtained, a motion to proceed to consider can be used to accomplish the same purpose. Sometimes a Senator other than the majority leader offers this motion, but usually this occurs in coordination with the majority leader.

This report examines motions to proceed to consider items of legislative business (“measures”); it does not cover nominations or...

U.S.-Singapore Relations

Individual Mandate Under the ACA

Since 2014, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA; P.L. 111-148, as amended) has required most individuals to maintain health insurance coverage or potentially to pay a penalty for noncompliance. Specifically, most individuals are required to maintain minimum essential coverage for themselves and their dependents. Minimum essential coverage is a term defined in the ACA and its implementing regulations and includes most private and public coverage (e.g., employer-sponsored coverage, individual coverage, Medicare, and Medicaid, among others). Some individuals are exempt from...

Rwanda: Current Issues

Frequently Asked Questions About Tax-Exempt Organizations

This report answers frequently asked questions about tax-exempt organizations. It provides basic answers and refers to sources of additional information that might be useful. The report focuses on the types of organizations described in Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 501(c), with the main emphasis on Section 501(c)(3) charitable organizations.

One set of questions addresses some of the primary characteristics of tax-exempt organizations, including whether they may participate in lobbying and election-related activities, and defines the terms “tax-exempt,” “nonprofit...

Patents and Regulatory Exclusivities: Issues in Pharmaceutical Innovation and Competition

Patents and regulatory exclusivities have each been the subject of congressional interest in recent years. Patents, which are administered by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), allow for a uniform 20-year term of protection for a variety of inventions. In contrast, regulatory exclusivities apply to drugs and biologic medicines regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Federal legislation establishes a complex range of regulatory exclusivities applicable to, among other subjects, new chemical entities, orphan drugs, and generic drugs. In general, these intellectual...

South Sudan

Tax Expenditures: Overview and Analysis

Tax expenditures—revenue losses associated with targeted provisions that move the income tax away from a “theoretical normal” tax system—are a long-standing feature of the U.S. tax code. In some ways, tax expenditures resemble direct spending programs. They both have similar budgetary effects and provide incentives that alter the allocation of resources. Hence, tax expenditures, like direct spending, are one of the ways that the federal government plays a role in shaping the economy.

Tax expenditures, however, do not regularly receive the same level of scrutiny as direct spending programs....

Cybersecurity and Information Sharing

Bangladesh

Sick Leave for Federal Employees: In Brief

This brief provides an overview of sick leave for federal employees, including leave options for employees when sick leave has been exhausted. Full-time federal employees can earn up to 104 hours (13 days) of sick leave per year and are entitled to use such leave for four primary reasons: (1) personal medical needs, (2) care of a family member, (3) death of a family member, and (4) adoption of a child.

A federal employee might experience a situation in which he or she does not have enough accrued sick leave to cover a prolonged absence from work for personal or family medical reasons. In...

Agriculture in the WTO: Rules and Limits on Domestic Support

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

The United States currently is committed,...

WTO Doha Round: Implications for U.S. Agriculture

The Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations, launched in November 2001, has been at an impasse since 2009 and presently shows no signs of restarting, despite an interim agreement reached at the December 2013 Bali Ministerial.

The goal of the Doha Round’s agriculture negotiations is to make progress simultaneously across the three pillars of the World Trade Organization’s (WTO’s) 1994 Agricultural Agreement—domestic support, market access, and export competition—by building on the specific terms and conditions established during the previous Uruguay Round of negotiations. Negotiators...

HIPAA Privacy, Security, Enforcement, and Breach Notification Standards

The Privacy Rule, which was promulgated pursuant to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996, comprises a set of federal standards governing the use of personal health information. The Privacy Rule generally applies to individually identifiable health information created and maintained by payers and providers of health care, collectively referred to as covered entities. The rule establishes certain individual rights, including the right to inspect and obtain a copy of one’s health information; describes the circumstances under which covered entities are...

Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: Recent Activities and Ongoing Developments

In the wake of the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010, federal agencies, state and local government agencies, and responsible parties faced an unprecedented challenge. An oil discharge continued for 87 days, resulting in the largest ever oil spill in U.S. waters.

Led by the U.S. Coast Guard, response activities were extensive for several years but have diminished substantially:

At the height of operations (summer of 2010), response personnel numbered over 47,000.

As of April 2015, 30 response personnel, including federal...

U.S.-Japan Relations

U.S. International Food Aid Programs

FEMA’s Public Assistance Grant Program: Background and Considerations for Congress

The Public Assistance Grant Program (PA Program) is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and combines the authorities of multiple sections of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (P.L. 93-288, as amended, the Stafford Act). The PA Program is only available for states and communities that have received a major or emergency disaster declaration through the Stafford Act (and in a more limited fashion, Fire Management Assistance Grants). The PA Program provides grant assistance for eligible purposes, including

Emergency work, as...

Marijuana: Medical and Retail—Selected Legal Issues

The federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) outlaws the possession, cultivation, and distribution of marijuana except for authorized research. More than 20 states have regulatory schemes that allow possession, cultivation, and distribution of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Four have revenue regimes that allow possession, cultivation, and sale generally. The U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause preempts any state law that conflicts with federal law. Although there is some division, the majority of state courts have concluded that the federal-state marijuana law conflict does not require...

Medicaid Reimbursement Rate Litigation: An Overview of Armstrong v. Exceptional Child Center, Inc.

On March 31, 2015, the Supreme Court decided in Armstrong v. Exception Child Center, Incorporated, that private parties cannot seek an injunction from a federal court to prevent state Medicaid officials from implementing a state plan that may violate Medicaid’s equal access requirement under federal law.

Medicaid is a cooperative federal-state program through which the federal government provides financial assistance to states for medical care and other services for poor, elderly, and disabled individuals. States have considerable discretion in administering their Medicaid program, which...

Marijuana: Medical and Retail—An Abbreviated View of Selected Legal Issues

The federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) outlaws the possession, cultivation, and distribution of marijuana except for authorized research. More than 20 states have regulatory schemes that allow possession, cultivation, and distribution of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Four have revenue regimes that allow possession, cultivation, and sale generally. The U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause preempts any state law that conflicts with federal law. Although there is some division, the majority of state courts have concluded that the federal-state marijuana law conflict does not require...

Premium Tax Credits and Federal Health Insurance Exchanges: Questions and Answers

Legal challenges that may have a substantial impact on the implementation and operation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) concern whether premium tax credits are available for millions of individuals participating in federally administered health insurance exchanges. These credits, which became available in 2014, are intended to help individuals pay the premiums for private health plans offered through the insurance exchanges established under the act. In addressing who may receive this credit, ACA refers to individuals who are “enrolled in [a plan] through an...

Proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership

Entering the Executive Branch of Government: Potential Conflicts of Interest with Previous Employments and Affiliations

Ethics and conflict of interest concerns have been raised concerning the impartiality or bias of government regulators or administrators who, shortly before entering government service, represented, owned, were employed by, or were given large cash payments or “rewards” by private firms or other entities that such officials must now regulate and oversee. Federal conflict of interest law and regulation, for the most part, deal with the potential influence of existing financial assets, properties, and relationships of a federal official. There are, however, some limited conflict of interest...

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act: Standards of Conduct of Brokers, Dealers, and Investment Advisers

Brokers and dealers and investment advisers have been held to different standards of conduct in their dealings with investors. In very general terms, a broker-dealer is held to a suitability standard, and an investment adviser is held to a fiduciary duty standard. With passage of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (P.L. 111-203), which tasks the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) with issuing rules concerning the standards of conduct for brokers, dealers, and investment advisers, the current standards may be changed.

The Financial Industry Regulatory...

Joint Employers and the National Labor Relations Act

This report examines the standard used currently by the National Labor Relations Board (“Board”) to determine whether two businesses may be considered joint employers for purposes of the rights and protections afforded by the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”). In a June 2014 amicus brief filed with the Board, the Board’s General Counsel encouraged the adoption of a new joint employer standard that would consider the totality of the circumstances, including how the alleged joint employers have structured their commercial relationship. Following the filing of the amicus brief, the...

Al Shabaab

This report briefly examines Al Shabaab (aka Harakat Shabaab al Mujahidin, or Mujahidin Youth Movement) which is an insurgent and terrorist group that evolved out of a militant wing of Somalia’s Council of Islamic Courts in the mid-2000s.

Boko Haram

Veterans and Homelessness

Federal Involvement in Sex Offender Registration and Notification: Overview and Issues for Congress, In Brief

The federal government plays a role in the management of sex offenders. In a law enforcement capacity, it enforces federal laws involving sexual abuse, online predatory offenses, or other related federal crimes. In addition, Congress has enacted legislation that encourages the development of state sex offender registries, urges states to punish recalcitrant sex offenders, and induces state and local law enforcement to make certain information on sex offenders public, and has taken other steps involving the registration of sex offenders and notification of the community. Federal legislation...

Cybersecurity

A Snapshot of Student Loan Debt

Space Exploration

The Tip Credit Provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA): In Brief

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), enacted in 1938 (P.L. 75-718), is the federal legislation that establishes the general minimum wage that must be paid to all covered workers. In 1966, Congress amended the FLSA to add a “tip credit” provision to the minimum wage provisions. These amendments, which apply to “tipped workers,” do not change the guaranteed minimum wage of $7.25 per hour but they allow a combination of earnings from employer cash wages and employee tips to equal the federal minimum wage (currently $7.25 per hour). That is, the “credit” is the amount from employee tips that...

Health Insurance Premium Credits in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2015

New federal tax credits, authorized under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA; P.L. 111-148, as amended), first became available in 2014 to help certain individuals pay for health insurance. The tax credits apply toward premiums for private health plans offered through exchanges (also referred to as health insurance marketplaces). The ACA also established subsidies to reduce cost-sharing expenses.

Health insurance exchanges operate in every state and the District of Columbia (DC), per the ACA statute. Exchanges may be established and administered by states, the federal...

Major Entitlement Spending

EPA’s Proposed Clean Power Plan: Conversion to Mass-Based Emission Targets

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a rule in June 2014 that would require states to address carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from existing fossil fuel-fired electric generating units. The proposal would create CO2 emission rate goals—measured in pounds of CO2 emissions per megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity generation—for each state to achieve by 2030 and an interim goal in 2029, based on the average of a state’s emission rates between 2020 and 2029.

EPA’s proposal would allow a state to establish its emission reduction requirements by converting the interim (2029) and final...

The Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) and Medicare Physician Payments: Frequently Asked Questions

This report responds to frequently asked questions about the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) system for updating Medicare physician fee schedule payments (MPFS) and the recent legislative efforts to repeal and replace the SGR. Frequently asked questions address the background of the SGR, the need for congressional overrides (also referred to as “doc fixes”), and current legislative activity.

For additional information, see CRS Report R40907, Medicare Physician Payment Updates and the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) System, by Jim Hahn.

Firearms at Army Corps Water Resource Projects: Proposed Legislation and Issues in the 113th Congress

As part of its civil works mission, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manages water resource projects. Areas behind and below Corps dams and around Corps locks, levees, and waterways are popular recreation sites, attracting 370 million visits annually. Corps projects are some of the most densely used federal recreation sites. Title 36, Section 327, of the Code of Federal Regulations sets out the regulations for public use of Corps projects. Section 327.13 generally prohibits possession of loaded firearms by private (i.e., non-law enforcement) individuals at Corps-administered projects...

Medal of Honor Recipients in the 113th Congress: A Fact Sheet

This fact sheet lists names of recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest award for valor, awarded during the 113th Congress. Previous congressional use of the information contained in this fact sheet has included examinations of legislative measures that have waived or accelerated timeline reviews for potential Medal of Honor recipients. The material has been used in speeches, including Memorial and Veterans Day holiday observations.

Terms for metadata: Congressional Medal of Honor, Date of Issue, MOH Home of Record, Medal of Honor, General Orders Congressional Medal of...

Chicken Imports from China

Commercial Filming and Photography on Federal Lands

Child Welfare: Title IV-E Proposals in the President’s FY2016 Budget

Under Title IV-E of the Social Security Act, states are entitled to open-ended reimbursement for the cost of providing foster care, adoption assistance, and (in states that choose to provide it) kinship guardianship assistance. Additional mandatory funding is available, on a capped basis, for services to youth who “age out” of foster care, or are expected to, and for Tribal Title IV-E plan development and technical assistance. Each year the President’s budget estimates the amount of funding necessary to meet federal commitments under Title IV-E based on current law and, if included in the...

Veterans’ Benefits: The Impact of Military Discharges on Basic Eligibility

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers a broad range of benefits to veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces and to certain members of their families; however, a claimant must meet the basic eligibility criteria. A benefit claimant must prove that he or she meets the statutory definition of a “veteran,” which includes (1) service in the active military (i.e., Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard) or commissioned officers of the Public Health Service (PHS), and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); (2) minimum length of service requirements; and (3) discharge...

Many Aspects of the Affordable Care Act Would Not Be Affected by King v. Burwell

This report briefly discusses the possible effects of the King v. Burwell case on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) law. The case examines whether or not the ACA allows the IRS to make premium tax credits available to residents of states that decline to establish health insurance exchanges.

Genetic Testing: Background and Policy Issues

Congress has considered, at various points in time, numerous pieces of legislation that relate to genetic and genomic technology and testing. These include bills addressing genetic discrimination in health insurance and employment; precision medicine; the patenting of genetic material; and the oversight of clinical laboratory tests (in vitro diagnostics), including genetic tests. The focus on these issues signals the growing importance of public policy issues surrounding the clinical and public health implications of new genetic technology. As genetic technologies proliferate and are...

Foreign Heads of State Addressing Congress

This report discusses the historical precedent for an addresses Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made before a joint meeting of Congress on March 3, 2015.

Tax-Preferred College Savings Plans: An Introduction to 529 Plans

In the face of the rising cost of higher education, families may consider a variety of ways to finance their children’s college expenses. In order to make higher education more affordable, Congress has enacted legislation that provides favorable tax treatment for college savings. Among the options families may choose to save for college, they may consider using tax-advantaged qualified tuition programs (QTPs), also known as 529 plans.

529 plans, named for the section of the tax code which dictates their tax treatment, are tax-advantaged investment trusts used to pay for higher-education...

Medicare Advantage—Proposed Benchmark Update and Other Adjustments for CY2016: In Brief

SUMMARY TO BE SUPPRESSED]

Medicare Advantage MA Part C Advance notice of methodological changes for CY 2016 Capitation Rates, AHIP Benchmark Bid National Per Capita MA Growth Percentage US Per Capita Cost Growth Percentage USPCC, NPCMAGP payments quality bonus payment demonstration applicable amount specified amount Affordable Care Act phase-in to new benchmark coding pattern differences normalization ACA

Veto Override Procedure in the House and Senate

A bill or joint resolution that has been vetoed by the President can become law if two-thirds of the Members voting in the House and the Senate each agree to pass it over the President’s objection. The chambers act sequentially on vetoed measures: The House acts first on House-originated measures (H.R. and H.J. Res.), and the Senate acts first on Senate-originated measures (S. and S.J. Res.). If the first-acting chamber fails to override the veto, the other chamber cannot consider it. The House typically considers the question of overriding a presidential veto under the hour rule, with...

Small Business Contracting Law

Enforcement of Congressional Rules of Conduct: A Historical Overview

The Constitution vests Congress with broad authority to discipline its Members. Only since 1967, however, have both houses established formal rules of conduct and disciplinary procedures whereby allegations of illegal or unethical conduct may be investigated and punished.

In 1964, the Senate established its first permanent ethics committee, the Select Committee on Standards and Conduct, which was renamed the Select Committee on Ethics in 1977. In 1967, the House first established a permanent ethics committee, the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, which was renamed the Committee...

Number of African American Judges Reaches All-Time High; Do Issues Remain?

This report provides historical and statistical information related to the appointment of African Americans as U.S. circuit and district court judges. Such information addresses ongoing congressional interest in the demographic characteristics of lower federal court judges.

How Legislation Is Brought to the House Floor: A Snapshot of Parliamentary Practice in the 113th Congress (2013-2014)

The House of Representatives has several different parliamentary procedures through which it can bring legislation to the chamber floor. Which of these will be used in a given situation depends on many factors, including the type of measure being considered, its cost, the amount of political or policy controversy surrounding it, and the degree to which Members want to debate it and propose amendments. This report provides a snapshot of the forms and origins of measures that, according to the Legislative Information System of the U.S. Congress, received action on the House floor in the...

Veterans’ Benefits: Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) for Survivors

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) administers directly, or in conjunction with other federal agencies, programs that provide benefits and other services to veterans and their spouses, dependents, and beneficiaries.

One of the benefits that VA administers is Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) for survivors of certain servicemembers and veterans. DIC is a monthly tax-free cash payment to survivors and dependents of servicemembers killed while on active military duty and those of certain veterans. Survivors of veterans who die from service-related conditions are eligible for...

U.S. Secret Service Protection

Introduction to Financial Services: International Supervision

This report discusses the financial crisis of 2007-2008 and subsequent global economic turmoil that underscored the interconnectedness of the global financial system as well as its weaknesses. In the wake of the crisis, leaders from the United States and other countries have pursued a wide range of reforms to the international financial regulatory system.

The Measles: Background and Federal Role in Vaccine Policy

The earliest accounts of measles date back over 1,000 years. This report presents basic information about this infectious disease, its history in the United States, available treatments to prevent individuals from contracting measles, and the federal role in combatting measles—from funding, to research, to the authority of the federal government in requiring mandatory childhood vaccinations. The report provides additional resources for information on measles and recommendations for vaccination against the disease.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),...

House Committee Reports: Required Contents

House rules and statutes detail several substantive requirements for items to be included in reports accompanying bills reported from committees, as noted in the following table. For example, most committee reports explain a bill’s purpose and the need for the legislation, its cost, the committee votes on amendments and the measure itself, the position of the executive branch, and the specific changes the bill would make in existing law. Not all requirements are applicable to all committees or in all circumstances. There is also no prescribed order for inclusion of these items in the...

The Presidential Libraries Act and the Establishment of Presidential Libraries

The Presidential Libraries Act (P.L. 84-373; 69 Stat. 695), as originally enacted in 1955, sought to create a system of government “preservation and administration ... of papers and other historical materials of any President or former President of the United States.” Pursuant to the law, the General Services Administration’s (GSA’s) Administrator could, among other actions,

accept ... the papers and other historical materials of any President or former President of the United States, or of any other official or former official of the Government, and other papers relating to and...

A Guide to Describing the Income Distribution

The distribution of income in the United States features heavily in congressional discussions about the middle class, program funding and effectiveness, new and existing target groups, government tax revenue, and social mobility, among other topics. Recently, the level and distribution of U.S. income have also been raised in the context of broader macroeconomic issues, such as economic growth. Accordingly, Congress has sought information on the absolute and relative experience of U.S. households, the range of incomes, and their dispersion.

Describing the income distribution involves...

U.S.-China Relations

Inland Waterways Trust Fund

FHA Single-Family Mortgage Insurance: Recent Policy Changes and Proposed Legislation

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA), an agency of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), insures private mortgage lenders against losses on eligible mortgages. If a borrower defaults on an FHA-insured mortgage, FHA will repay the lender the remaining amount owed. FHA insurance is intended to encourage lenders to offer mortgages to households who might otherwise have difficulty obtaining a loan at an affordable interest rate, such as households with small down payments. Borrowers pay fees, called premiums, in exchange for the insurance, and these fees are supposed to...

China as the World’s “Largest Economy”

Various media have recently reported that China has overtaken the United States to become the world’s largest economy (a position the United States had held at least since 1913), based on estimates of purchasing power parity (PPP) measurements and projections made by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). This report examines the data and its policy implications.

FEMA DRF Major Disaster Assistance: Utah

FEMA DRF Major Disaster Assistance: New Jersey

This report discusses the Disaster Relief Fund (DRF) that is managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and is the primary source of funding used to provide assistance following a major disaster declaration.

FEMA DRF Major Disaster Assistance: Iowa

FEMA DRF Major Disaster Assistance: Ohio

FEMA DRF Major Disaster Assistance: Kansas

This report describes the Disaster Relief Fund (DRF), which is managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and is the primary source of funding used to provide assistance following a major disaster declaration.

U.S.-China Trade Issues

H.R. 399, the Secure Our Borders First Act of 2015: Report in Brief

This report provides a summary of select provisions in the Secure Our Borders First Act of 2015 (H.R. 399). An amendment in the nature of a substitute to the bill was favorably marked up and reported out of the House Homeland Security Committee on January 21, 2015.

This report provides a summary of select provisions in the bill that fall under two major headings—Operational Control of the Borders and Biometric Entry and Exit System—and concludes with a brief description of additional provisions collected under a third heading—CBP Agents and Officers, and Federal Land. Figures provide...

Bank Failures and the FDIC

Social Security’s Effect on Child Poverty

Social Security plays an important role in reducing poverty, not only among the aged but among children as well. Children may be eligible for Social Security benefits when a parent who is a covered worker dies, becomes disabled, or retires. In addition to receiving Social Security in their own right, children may economically benefit from Social Security by living with other family members receiving benefits.

Based on a Congressional Research Service (CRS) analysis of U.S. Census Bureau Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) data, in April 2013, an estimated 8.5 million children...

Crime and Forfeiture: In Short

Forfeiture has long been an effective law enforcement tool. Congress and state legislatures have authorized its use for over 200 years. Every year, it redirects property worth billions of dollars from criminal to lawful uses. Forfeiture law has always been somewhat unique. Legislative bodies, commentators, and the courts, however, had begun to examine its eccentricities in greater detail because under some circumstances it could be not only harsh but unfair. The Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act (CAFRA), P.L. 106-185, 114 Stat. 202 (2000), was a product of that reexamination.

Modern...

Aereo and FilmOn X: Internet Television Streaming and Copyright Law

Aereo and FilmOn X were created to stream television programming over the Internet for a monthly subscription fee. Aereo and FilmOn’s technology permitted subscribers to watch both live broadcast television in addition to already-aired programming. Their use of this development in technology triggered multiple lawsuits from broadcasting companies alleging copyright violations. These cases revealed not only multiple interpretations of copyright law and its application to new and developing technologies, but also a possible “loophole” in the law, which some accused Aereo and FilmOn of...

The Impact of Sequestration on Unemployment Insurance Benefits: Frequently Asked Questions

“Sequestration” refers to a process of automatic, largely across-the-board spending reductions under which budgetary resources are permanently canceled to enforce certain budget policy goals. Most recently, sequestration was triggered by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA; P.L. 112-25) and first implemented on March 1, 2013 (delayed by P.L. 112-240).

Some, but not all, types of unemployment insurance (UI) benefits are subject to reductions under the BCA sequester. Regular Unemployment Compensation (UC), Unemployment Compensation for Ex-Servicemembers (UCX), and Unemployment Compensation...

Title X Family Planning Program

Cybersecurity Issues and Challenges

Overview of the Federal Procurement Process and Resources

In the basic federal procurement process, acquisition personnel, after determining their agency’s requirements (that is, the goods and services the agency needs), post a solicitation on the Federal Business Opportunities (FedBizOpps) website. Interested companies prepare their offers in response to the solicitation, and, in accordance with applicable provisions of the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), agency personnel evaluate the offers. Another type of procurement opportunity for a company is to serve as a subcontractor for a government contractor. To be eligible to compete for...

The Affordable Care Act and Small Business: Economic Issues

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA; P.L. 111-148 and P.L. 111-152) contains several provisions to encourage employer-sponsored health coverage, particularly among small businesses. The provisions that most directly relate to small businesses are (1) an employer penalty for not providing health insurance, (2) a tax credit to increase the affordability of health care for the smallest firms, and (3) small business health insurance exchanges designed to increase plan options and lower plan costs.

Several events have altered the ACA’s implementation since its enactment in 2010....

The World Trade Organization at 20

The Reclamation Fund

Out-of-Pocket Costs for Medicaid Beneficiaries: In Brief

The federal Medicaid statute and accompanying regulations include provisions that states can apply to certain program beneficiaries with respect to out-of-pocket cost-sharing, including premiums that may be required on a monthly or quarterly basis, enrollment fees that may be applied on an annual or semiannual basis, and point-of-service cost-sharing (e.g., a co-payment to a Medicaid participating provider for a specific covered service received). To implement these options, states must submit Medicaid state plan amendments (SPAs) detailing these provisions to the federal Centers for...

Clean Air Issues in the 113th Congress: An Overview

Oversight of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulatory actions was the main focus of interest as the 113th Congress considered air quality issues. Of particular interest were EPA’s proposed regulations on the emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) from power plants.

Reducing GHG emissions to address climate change is a major goal of President Obama, but Congress has been less enthusiastic about it. In the absence of congressional action, the President has directed EPA to promulgate GHG standards using existing authority under the Clean Air Act. This authority has been upheld on at...

Lower Oil Prices 2015

Medicare Preferred Pharmacy Networks

Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): Employment Discrimination

Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (together, ADA) prohibit discrimination in employment against qualified individuals on the basis of disability. The ADA defines the term disability broadly to include individuals with disabilities, individuals with a history of a disability, and individuals regarded as having disabilities whether they have one or not. The ADA protects alcoholics and drug addicts who are in recovery, but does not protect individuals who are actively abusing drugs or alcohol.

The ADA requires “covered...

Desalination and Membrane Technologies: Federal Research and Adoption Issues

In the United States, desalination and membrane technologies are used to augment municipal water supply, produce high-quality industrial water supplies, and reclaim contaminated supplies (including from oil and gas development). Approximately 2,000 desalination facilities larger than 0.3 million gallons per day (MGD) operate in the United States; this represents more than 2% of U.S. municipal and industrial freshwater use. At issue for Congress is what should be the federal role in supporting desalination and membrane technology research and facilities. Desalination issues before the 114th...

Public-Private Partnerships for Purposes of Federal Real Property Management

While public-private partnerships (PPPs) have long been used to manage real property, congressional interest in PPPs has recently increased due to the large number of underutilized and excess buildings owned by federal agencies, as well as sequestration and other spending constraints. There is no single, accepted definition of public-private partnership, and PPPs can be structured in many ways. However, for purposes of this report, a PPP is an agreement whereby a nonfederal entity acquires the right to use a real property owned or controlled by a federal agency—typically through a...

The Presidential Records Act: Background and Recent Issues for Congress

Presidential documents are historical resources that capture each incumbent’s conduct in presidential office. Pursuant to the Presidential Records Act ((PRA) 44 U.S.C. §§2201-2207), the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) collects most records of Presidents and Vice Presidents at the end of each Administration. They are then disclosed to the public—unless the Archivist of the United States, the incumbent President, or the appropriate former President requests the records be kept private.

The PRA is the primary law governing the collection and preservation of, and access to,...

Federal Income Taxes and Noncitizens: Frequently Asked Questions

This report answers frequently asked questions about noncitizens and federal income taxes. Noncitizens may be subject to U.S. income taxes when, for example, they work in the United States or they live abroad but have U.S. source income. Noncitizens who may be subject to U.S. income taxes include

legal permanent residents (LPRs or green card holders) who are authorized to live and work in the United States permanently;

aliens who are authorized to stay in the United States temporarily, and may or may not be authorized to work;

aliens who are not authorized to be in the United States...

Wastewater Treatment: Overview and Background

The Clean Water Act prescribes performance levels to be attained by municipal sewage treatment plants in order to prevent the discharge of harmful wastes into surface waters. The act also provides financial assistance so that communities can construct treatment facilities to comply with the law. The availability of funding for this purpose continues to be a major concern of states and local governments.

This report provides background on municipal wastewater treatment issues, federal treatment requirements and funding, and recent legislative activity. Meeting the nation’s wastewater...

Reauthorization of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA)

One hundred sixteen million U.S. households watch television. Approximately 86% of those households subscribe to a service that carries the retransmitted signals of broadcast stations over fiber optic cables, telephone lines, or through satellite dishes on the premises. Such services, known as multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs), retransmit broadcast television signals pursuant to a regulatory framework constructed by Congress and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The remaining households generally use an individual antenna that receives broadcast signals...

Senate Committees: Categories and Rules for Committee Assignments

Senate Rule XXV and party conference rules address committee assignments. Senate Rule XXV, paragraphs 2 and 3 establish categories of committees, popularly referred to as “A,” “B,” and “C,” that condition assignment rules.

Congressional Commissions: Costs and Cost-Saving Strategies

This report discusses the congressional commissions, which are temporary advisory bodies, usually established by statute, that provide independent advice to Congress, make recommendations for changes in public policy, study or investigate a particular problem or event, or perform a specific duty.

The U.S. Secret Service: History and Missions

The U.S. Secret Service has two missions—criminal investigations and protection. Criminal investigation activities have expanded since the inception of the Service from a small anti-counterfeiting operation at the end of the Civil War, to now encompassing financial crimes, identity theft, counterfeiting, computer fraud, and computer-based attacks on the nation’s financial, banking, and telecommunications infrastructure, among other areas. Protection activities, which have expanded and evolved since the 1890s, include ensuring the safety and security of the President, Vice President, their...

Overview of Selected Federal Criminal Civil Rights Statutes

Federal criminal civil rights laws impose criminal penalties for deprivation of certain federal rights, privileges, or immunities. These laws prohibit hate crimes based on race, color, religion, or national origin; the burning of places of worship; violence against health care providers; and the transport of persons (particularly women and children) for the purpose of enslavement or forced labor. Some of these laws require a discriminatory motivation while others, such as human trafficking, do not. Some cover offenders acting “under color of any law.”

The Federal Bureau of Investigation...

Radio Broadcasting Chips for Smartphones: A Status Report

The concurrent developments of digital radio broadcasting and digital cellular networks have enabled hybrid products that incorporate over-the-air broadcasting into cellphones. A recent introduction (2013) is a hybrid radio/smartphone with Internet connectivity, marketed in the United States as NextRadio. NextRadio uses a chip that receives analog FM and digital radio, with enhancements such as customized radio listening; the primary radio connection is over-the-air, not through Internet streaming.

On the assumption that radio broadcasting is more accessible and reliable than...

Cash Versus Accrual Basis of Accounting: An Introduction

This report introduces two general methods of accounting—the cash basis method and accrual basis method. The choice of accounting method determines the timing of the recognition of revenue and expenses. Under cash basis accounting, revenue and expenses are recorded when cash is actually paid or received. Under accrual basis accounting, revenue is recorded when it is earned and expenses are reported when they are incurred. Understanding the differences between these two accounting methods could be helpful to Congress as it considers reforming the tax system and changing the federal...

The Congressional Review Act (CRA)

Selected Privileges and Courtesies Extended to Former Members of Congress

After Members of the House or Senate leave office, they are afforded certain courtesies and privileges. Some are derived from law and chamber rules, but others are courtesies that have been extended as a matter of custom. Some of these privileges and courtesies include the following: access to the floor of the chamber in which a former Member served; short-term franking privileges; access to parking facilities and athletic or wellness facilities; access to House or Senate administrative services and dining facilities; and access to materials through the Congressional Research Service (CRS)...

Closing a Congressional Office: Overview of House and Senate Practices

Turnover of membership in the House and Senate necessitates closing congressional offices. The closure of a congressional office requires an outgoing Member of Congress to evaluate pertinent information regarding his or her staff; the disposal of personal and official records; and final disposition of office accounts, facilities, and equipment. In the past several years, the House and Senate have developed extensive resources to assist Members in closing their offices. These services are most typically used at the end of a Congress, when a Member’s term of service ends, but most of the...

The Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Strategy: In Brief

< SUPPRESS > KEY TERMS FOR SEARCH: Hurricane Sandy Superstorm Sandy Hurricane Rebuilding Strategy Recovery Disaster Recovery Executive Order 13632 E.O. 13632 Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force HUD Task Force Hurricane Sandy recovery P.L. 113-2

Medicaid Home and Community-Based Settings Final Rule: In Brief

On January 16, 2014, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a final rule for Medicaid participants receiving home and community-based services (HCBS). Effective March 17, 2014, the rule establishes certain requirements for home and community-based settings. To receive federal reimbursement, states must ensure that Medicaid HCBS are delivered in such settings. CMS states that the purpose of the rule is to ensure that Medicaid participants have full access to community living and opportunities to receive Medicaid services in the most integrated setting appropriate....

Energy-Water Nexus: The Energy Sector’s Water Use

Water and energy are critical resources that are reciprocally linked; this interdependence is often described as the water-energy nexus. Meeting energy-sector water needs, which are often large, depends upon the local availability of water for fuel production, hydropower generation, and thermoelectric power plant cooling. The U.S. energy sector’s use of water is significant in terms of water withdrawals and water consumption. Thermoelectric cooling represented 38% of freshwater withdrawn nationally and 45% of all water (fresh and saline) withdrawn in 2010, and the broader energy sector’s...

Federal Regulations and the Rulemaking Process

This report provides an overview of the federal regulations and the rulemaking process and the role of the President in rulemaking.

U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Recent Trends and Factors

On June 25, 2013, President Obama affirmed his commitment to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 17% below 2005 levels by 2020 if all other major economies agreed to limit their emissions as well. In addition, during a November 2014 trip to China, President Obama announced a new policy target to reduce U.S. net GHG emissions by 26%-28% by 2025. Whether these objectives will be met is uncertain, but emission levels and recent trends remain a topic of interest among policy makers.

U.S. GHG emissions increased during most of the years between 1990 and 2007, and then decreased...

The Obama Administration’s November 2014 Immigration Initiatives: Questions and Answers

On November 20, 2014, President Obama delivered a televised address wherein he broadly described the steps that his administration is taking to “fix” what he has repeatedly described as a “broken immigration system.” Following the President’s address, executive agencies made available intra-agency memoranda and fact sheets detailing specific actions that have already been taken, or will be taken in the future. These actions generally involve either border security, the current unlawfully present population, or future legal immigration.

The most notable of these actions, for many...

Membership of the 113th Congress: A Profile

This report presents a profile of the membership of the 113th Congress (2013-2014). Statistical information is included on selected characteristics of Members, including data on party affiliation, average age, occupation, education, length of congressional service, religious affiliation, gender, ethnicity, foreign births, and military service.

As of November 24, 2014, in the House of Representatives, there are 234 Republicans, 207 Democrats (including 5 Delegates and the Resident Commissioner), and no vacant seats. The Senate has 45 Republicans, 53 Democrats, and 2 Independents, who caucus...

Ebola: 2014 Outbreak in West Africa

Cybersecurity: FISMA Reform

This report briefly discusses current requirements under the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) and two bills currently being considered by Congress that would revise the conditions and authority granted by FISMA.

U.S.-China Trade Issues

Food Recalls and Other FDA Administrative Enforcement Actions

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ensures the safety of all food except for meat, poultry, and certain egg products over which the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has regulatory oversight. Under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA), the FDA has the authority to regulate the manufacturing, processing, and labeling of food with the primary goal of promoting food safety.

Congress has granted the FDA the authority to take both administrative and judicial enforcement actions. The agency initiates and carries out administrative enforcement actions while judicial...

Proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

Child Welfare: State Plan Requirements under the Title IV-E Foster Care, Adoption Assistance, and Kinship Guardianship Assistance Program

Under Title IV-E of the Social Security Act, states, territories, and tribes are entitled to claim partial federal reimbursement for the cost of providing foster care, adoption assistance, and kinship guardianship assistance to children who meet federal eligibility criteria. The Title IV-E program, as it is commonly called, provides support for monthly payments on behalf of eligible children, as well as funds for related case management activities, training, data collection, and other costs of program administration. For FY2013, states spent $12.3 billion under the Title IV-E program (both...

The World Trade Organization at 20

Medicaid Prescription Drug Pricing and Policy

Medicaid is a federal-state entitlement program that pays for health care and related services on behalf of certain low-income individuals. Prescription drugs are an optional Medicaid benefit and all states cover outpatient drugs. States can create formularies, or lists of preferred drugs, but federal rules tend to result in comprehensive coverage, even for beneficiaries enrolled in Medicaid managed care plans. Pharmaceutical manufacturers that voluntarily participate in Medicaid are required to pay rebates to states on covered outpatient drugs, which help Medicaid receive manufacturers’...

Cybersecurity Issues and Challenges

Unemployment Insurance: Legislative Issues in the 113th Congress

The 113th Congress continues to face numerous issues related to unemployment insurance programs: Unemployment Compensation (UC), the temporary, now-expired Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC08), and Extended Benefits (EB). With the national unemployment rate decreasing but still high, the interest in extended unemployment benefits continues at elevated levels.

P.L. 112-240 extended the authorization for the EUC08 program until the week ending on or before January 1, 2014 (December 28, 2013, for most states). In addition, P.L. 112-240 extended the 100% federal financing of the EB...

Nigeria: Current Issues

Summary of the Small Business Health Insurance Tax Credit Under ACA

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA; P.L. 111-148, as amended) includes a number of provisions intended to improve access to small group health insurance coverage. One of the provisions is the small business health insurance tax credit. Certain non-profit and for-profit small employers may be eligible for the credit, provided they cover at least 50% of the cost of each of their employees’ self-only health insurance premiums.

Beginning in 2014, the credit is generally available only to qualifying employers that purchase health insurance coverage through a small business...

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC): Legislation in the 113th Congress

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a refundable tax credit available to eligible workers earning relatively low wages. (Because the credit is refundable, an EITC recipient need not owe taxes to receive the benefit.) Under current law, the EITC is calculated based on a recipient’s earnings, using one of eight different formulas, which vary depending on several factors, including the number of qualifying children a tax filer has (zero, one, two, or three or more) and his or her marital status (unmarried or married).

All else being equal, the amount of the credit tends to increase with...

Leverage Ratios in Bank Capital Requirements

This report provides a summary of leverage ratios used in bank capital requirements. It also explains the concept of leverage and the rationale behind a leverage ratio.

Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) Exchange

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA; P.L. 111-148, as amended) includes a number of provisions intended to improve access to health insurance coverage. Among these are provisions that apply to the small group market to address perceived problems in the market, including low offer rates among smaller employers and the sometimes prohibitive cost of health plans available in the small group market.

The small business health option program (SHOP) exchanges are among the ACA provisions directed at the small group market. SHOP exchanges are marketplaces where private health...

The WTO Brazil-U.S. Cotton Case

Drought Policy, Response, and Preparedness

This report examines the various ways Congress and other federal, state, and local policymakers are considering to prepare for and respond to drought; how to coordinate actions and assign responsibilities; and who bears the costs of impacts, disaster response, and long-term adjustment to drought.

Child Welfare: Profiles of Current and Former Older Foster Youth Based on the National Youth in Transition Database (NYTD)

Congress has long been concerned with the well-being of older youth in foster care and those who have recently emancipated from care without going to a permanent home. Research on this population is fairly limited, and the few studies that are available have focused on youth who live in a small number of states. This research has generally found that youth who spend time in foster care during their teenage years tend to have difficulty as they enter adulthood and beyond.

The Chafee Foster Care Independence Act (P.L. 106-169), enacted in 1999, specified that state child welfare agencies...

Intelligence Whistleblower Protections: In Brief

Intelligence whistleblowers are generally Intelligence Community (IC) employees or contractors who bring to light allegations of agency wrongdoings by, for example, disclosing information on such wrongdoings to congressional intelligence committees. Such disclosures can aid oversight of, or help curb misconduct within, intelligence agencies. However, intelligence whistleblowers could face retaliation from their employers for their disclosures, and the fear of such retaliation may deter whistleblowing. Congress and President Obama have taken measures to protect certain intelligence...

State CO2 Emission Rate Goals in EPA’s Proposed Rule for Existing Power Plants

On June 18, 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a proposed rulemaking that would establish guidelines for states to use when developing plans that address carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from existing fossil fuel-fired electric generating units. The proposal creates CO2 emission rate goals—measured in pounds of CO2 emissions per megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity generation—for each state to achieve by 2030 and an interim goal to be achieved “on average” between 2020 and 2029. EPA estimates that if the states achieve their individual emission rate goals in 2030, the...

Medicare Financing

Medicare is the nation’s health insurance program for individuals aged 65 and over and certain disabled persons. Medicare consists of four distinct parts: Part A, or Hospital Insurance (HI); Part B, or Supplementary Medical Insurance (SMI); Part C, or Medicare Advantage (MA); and Part D, the outpatient prescription drug benefit. The Part A program is financed primarily through payroll taxes levied on current workers and their employers; these are credited to the HI trust fund. The Part B program is financed through a combination of monthly premiums paid by current enrollees and general...

House Committee Jurisdiction and Referral: Rules and Practice

Committee jurisdiction is determined by a variety of factors. Paramount is House Rule X, which designates the subject matter within the purview of each standing committee. House Rule X, however, is both largely broad and the product of an era in which governmental activity was not so extensive and relations among policies not so intertwined as now. Most of Rule X was drawn from 19th and 20th century precedents and codified in the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946. Although the rule underwent modest revisions in 1974 and 1980, as well as more extensive changes in the 104th and 109th...

Procedural Distinctions Between the House and the Committee of the Whole

Congressional Research Service 7-5700 www.crs.gov 98-143 Summary The Committee of the Whole House on the state of the Union, generally referred to as the Committee of the Whole, is a parliamentary device provided for under House rules to allow the House to operate as a committee on which every Member of the House serves. Through this practice, dating to colonial and English antecedents, the House is able to realize a procedural benefit from having established two somewhat different sets of rules to govern consideration of various types of measures. Measures placed on the Union Calendar...

Child Welfare and Child Support: The Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act (P.L. 113-183)

The Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act (H.R. 4980), an omnibus bill that includes both child welfare and child support provisions, was signed into law on September 29, 2014, as P.L. 113-183. The bill received broad congressional support, passing the House by voice vote (under suspension of the rules) on July 23, 2014, and the Senate by unanimous consent on September 18, 2014.

P.L. 113-183 amends the federal foster care program to require state child welfare agencies to develop and implement procedures for identifying, documenting in agency records, and determining...

Cybercrime: A Sketch of 18 U.S.C. 1030 and Related Federal Criminal Laws

The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), 18 U.S.C. 1030, outlaws conduct that victimizes computer systems. It is a cyber security law. It protects federal computers, bank computers, and computers connected to the Internet. It shields them from trespassing, threats, damage, espionage, and from being corruptly used as instruments of fraud. It is not a comprehensive provision, but instead it fills cracks and gaps in the protection afforded by other federal criminal laws. This is a brief sketch of CFAA and some of its federal statutory companions, including the amendments found in the Identity...

Same-Sex Marriage: A Legal Background After United States v. Windsor

This report discusses the recognition of same-sex marriage that generates debate on both the federal and state levels.

Ebola: Basics About the Disease

Will be suppressed. In March 2014, global health officials recognized an outbreak of Ebola virus disease (EVD) in Guinea, West Africa. In retrospect, officials determined that the outbreak began in December 2013, and spread to the adjacent countries of Liberia and Sierra Leone. In September 2014, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed the first EVD case diagnosed in the United States, heightening concerns among some who fear the disease could spread in American communities. This report discusses EVD in general, including symptoms, modes of transmission,...

South Sudan: Current Issues

The WTO Brazil-U.S. Cotton Case

On October 1, 2014, Brazil and the United States reached an agreement to resolve the long-running cotton dispute in the World Trade Organization (WTO). The two countries signed a new memorandum of understanding (MOU) that spelled out the terms of the agreement: Brazil relinquishes its rights to countermeasures against U.S. trade or any further proceedings in the dispute; the United States agreed to new rules governing fees and tenor for the GSM-102 export credit guarantee program; Brazil agreed to a temporary Peace Clause with respect to any new WTO actions against U.S. cotton support...

Extending Unemployment Compensation Benefits During Recessions

This report describes the history of temporary federal extensions to unemployment benefits from 1980 to the present. Among these extensions is the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC08) program created by P.L. 110-252 (amended by P.L. 110-449, P.L. 111-5, P.L. 111-92, P.L. 111-118, P.L. 111-144, P.L. 111-157, P.L. 111-205, P.L. 111-312, P.L. 112-78, P.L. 112-96, and P.L. 112-240).

This report contains five sections. The first section provides background information on unemployment compensation (UC) benefits. It also provides a brief summary of UC benefit exhaustion and how exhaustion...

Title X Family Planning Program

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA): Frequently Asked Questions

On June 15, 2012, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that certain individuals who were brought to the United States as children and meet other criteria would be considered for relief from removal for two years, subject to renewal, under an initiative known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. Among the eligibility requirements, an individual must have been under age 16 at the time of his or her entry into the United States; must have been continuously resident in the United States since June 15, 2007; and must not have been in lawful immigration status on...

Dark Pools in Equity Trading: Policy Concerns and Recent Developments

The term “dark pools” generally refers to electronic stock trading platforms in which pre-trade bids and offers are not published and price information about the trade is only made public after the trade has been executed. This differs from trading in so-called “lit” venues, such as traditional stock exchanges, which provide pre-trade bids and offers publicly into the consolidated quote stream widely used to price stocks.

Dark pools arose partly due to demand from institutional investors seeking to buy or sell big blocks of shares without sparking large price movements. The volume of...

Highway Bridge Conditions: Issues for Congress

Of the 608,000 public road bridges in the United States, about 64,000 (10%) were classified as structurally deficient in 2013, and another 84,000 (14%) were classified as functionally obsolete. The number of structurally deficient and functionally obsolete bridges has been declining steadily for more than two decades, and those that remain are not necessarily unsafe. Nonetheless, several high-profile bridge failures, including the 2013 collapse of a bridge on Interstate 5 in Washington State, have drawn public attention to the condition of bridges on federal-aid highways.

As it debates...

Common Core State Standards: Frequently Asked Questions

Over the last two decades, there has been interest in developing federal policies that focus on student outcomes in elementary and secondary education. Perhaps most prominently, the enactment of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB; P.L. 107-110), which amended and reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), marked a dramatic expansion of the federal government’s role in supporting standards-based instruction and test-based accountability, thereby increasing the federal government’s involvement in decisions that directly affect teaching and learning.

Under the...

Delayed Federal Grant Closeout: Issues and Impact

Federal outlays for grants to state and local governments have grown from $15.4 billion in 1940 (in constant FY2009 dollars) to $509.7 billion in 2013 (in constant FY2009 dollars). The number of congressionally authorized grant programs has also increased over time, with over 2,179 congressionally authorized grant programs currently being administered by federal agencies. Recently, congressional interest has focused on the efficient and effective management of federal grant programs. A recent congressional hearing evaluated the impact of alleged inefficient grant management which,...

The Federal Trade Commission’s Regulation of Data Security Under Its Unfair or Deceptive Acts or Practices (UDAP) Authority

The Federal Trade Commission Act established the Federal Trade Commission (FTC or Commission) in 1914. The protection of consumers from anticompetitive, deceptive, or unfair business practices is at the core of the FTC’s mission. As part of that mission, the FTC has been at the forefront of the federal government’s efforts to protect sensitive consumer information from data breaches and regulate cybersecurity. As the number of data breaches has soared, so too have FTC investigations into lax data security practices. The FTC has not been delegated specific authority to regulate data...

Cooling Water Intake Structures: Summary of the EPA Rule

Thermoelectric generating plants and manufacturing facilities withdraw large volumes of water for production and, especially, to absorb heat from their industrial processes. Water withdrawals by power producers and manufacturers represent more than one-half of water withdrawn daily for various uses in the United States. Although water withdrawal is a necessity for these facilities, it also presents special problems for aquatic resources. In particular, the process of drawing surface water into the plant through cooling water intake structures (CWIS) can simultaneously pull in fish,...

Asylum and Gang Violence: Legal Overview

The recent increase in the number of unaccompanied alien children (UACs) apprehended at the border between Mexico and the United States has raised questions about the role that gang-related violence in Central America may play in determining whether such children are eligible for refugee status and asylum. Only aliens who are “refugees,” as that term is defined by the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), qualify for potential refugee status or asylum (two forms of discretionary relief that could enable UACs to enter or remain in the United States).

The INA’s definition, in turn,...

A Primer on the Reviewability of Agency Delay and Enforcement Discretion

Congress regularly authorizes and requires administrative agencies to implement and enforce regulatory programs. As such, agencies routinely make decisions about when to promulgate regulations and when to enforce statutory requirements against parties who violate the law.

During the 113th Congress, the Obama Administration announced that certain federal agencies would not enforce specific aspects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for a period of time in order to allow the public to further prepare for proper compliance with the law in the future. This has led to numerous questions...

Common Core State Standards and Assessments: Background and Issues

Over the last two decades, there has been interest in developing federal policies that focus on student outcomes in elementary and secondary education. Perhaps most prominently, the enactment of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB; P.L. 107-110), which amended and reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), marked a dramatic expansion of the federal government’s role in supporting standards-based instruction and test-based accountability, thereby increasing the federal government’s involvement in decisions that directly affect teaching and learning.

Under the...

Special Immigrant Juveniles: In Brief

Abused, neglected, or abandoned children who also lack authorization under immigration law to reside in the United States (i.e., unauthorized aliens) raise complex immigration and child welfare concerns. In 1990, Congress created an avenue for unauthorized alien children who become dependents of the state juvenile courts to remain in the United States legally and permanently. Any child or youth under the age of 21 who was born in a foreign country; lives without legal authorization in the United States; has experienced abuse, neglect, or abandonment; and meets other specified eligibility...

Thailand: Background and U.S. Relations

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and the Right of Northwestern University Football Players to Unionize: Background and Related Issues

In late January 2014, a group of students who play football for Northwestern University filed a representation petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The students are seeking to be represented by the College Athletes Players Association (CAPA), a newly created labor organization. CAPA contends that college football and basketball players, particularly those who compete in Division I of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), are essentially employees given the amount of time they commit to athletics, the revenue they generate for their schools, and their...

Social Networking and Constituent Communications: Members’ Use of Vine in Congress

In the past 10 years, the rise of social media has expanded the number of options available for communication between Members of Congress and their constituents. Virtually all Members, including all 100 Senators, use Twitter as a tool to communicate legislative, policy, and official actions to interested parties; and the use of other forms of social media, including Facebook, has also proliferated.

The adoption of these technologies has enhanced the ability of Members of Congress to fulfill their representational duties by providing greater opportunities for constituents to communicate...

Social Security: Trust Fund Investment Practices

The Social Security Act has always required surplus Social Security revenues (revenues in excess of program expenditures) to be invested in U.S. government securities (or U.S. government-backed securities). In recent years, attention has been focused on alternative investment practices in an effort to increase the interest earnings of the trust funds, among other goals. This report describes Social Security trust fund investment practices under current law.

Air Quality Issues and Animal Agriculture: EPA’s Air Compliance Agreement

From an environmental quality standpoint, much of the interest in animal agriculture has focused on impacts on water resources, because animal waste, if not properly managed, can harm water quality through surface runoff, direct discharges, spills, and leaching into soil and groundwater. A more recent issue is the contribution of emissions from animal feeding operations (AFO), enterprises where animals are raised in confinement, to air pollution. AFOs can affect air quality through emissions of gases such as ammonia and hydrogen sulfide, particulate matter, volatile organic compounds,...

Improper Payments in High Priority Programs: In Brief

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

S. 1961 and H.R. 4024: Legislative Responses to a Chemical Storage Facility Spill

In January 2014, an estimated 10,000 gallons of 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol (MCHM) and other chemicals leaked from a bulk aboveground storage tank at a chemical storage facility located upstream from the intake pipes of the water treatment plant serving Charleston, WV, and nearby counties. In the wake of the resulting contamination of this large public water supply, Congress has undertaken oversight and is considering legislative options.

The chemical storage tank at the center of the West Virginia incident appears to not have been subject to regulation under various federal or state laws...

Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC08): Status of Benefits Prior to Expiration

Until its expiration at the end of December 2013, the temporary Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC08) program provided additional federal unemployment insurance benefits to eligible individuals who had exhausted all available benefits from their state Unemployment Compensation (UC) programs. Congress created the EUC08 program in 2008 and amended the original, authorizing law (P.L. 110-252) 11 times. No EUC08 benefits are currently available.

The last extension of EUC08 under P.L. 112-240, the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, authorized EUC08 benefits until the week ending on or...

Summary Cost Data for Federally-Facilitated Exchanges, 2014

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA, P.L. 111-148, as amended) contains a number of provisions that may affect costs associated with plans sold through the health insurance exchanges established under ACA, both in terms of premiums and cost-sharing measures. CRS developed a fact sheet for each of the federally-facilitated exchanges that offer private health plans to individuals and families. Each fact sheet provides summary data about the range of costs and options for plans in a specific state’s marketplace.

In general, the ACA provisions that may affect exchange premiums...

Reducing the Budget Deficit: Overview of Policy Issues

The federal budget deficit was the largest it has been since World War II as a percentage of GDP from 2009 to 2012, peaking at 10.1% of GDP. This occurred because spending reached its highest share of GDP since 1945 and revenues reached their lowest share of GDP since 1950. Since then, the deficit has declined to a projected 2.8% of GDP in 2014, which is still above the 1946 to 2008 average. Over the next 25 years, deficits are projected to become very large again under current law.

The recent decline in the deficit is partly due to improvements in the economy, the expiration of temporary...

Summary Cost Data for Health Plans Available in Wisconsin’s Exchange, 2014: Fact Sheet

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA, P.L. 111-148, as amended) contains a number of provisions that may affect the individual health insurance market. This fact sheet offers a first look at selected costs and options for individual and family plans in Wisconsin’s exchange, providing information about individual and family premiums for selected ages, as well as two cost-sharing measures: medical deductible and maximum out-of-pocket expenses.

2014 Quadrennial Homeland Security Review: Evolution of Strategic Review

The quadrennial homeland security review is a process in which DHS examines the nation's homeland security strategy; the report provides an explanation of this process. Neither the review process nor the report to Congress is a strategy, instead the 2014 QHSR (both the process and report) are part of the constant reevaluation of the nation's homeland security and part of the process by which the combined National and Homeland Security Staff develops the next iteration of the national security strategy.

Summary Cost Data for Health Plans Available in Utah’s Exchange, 2014: Fact Sheet

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA, P.L. 111-148, as amended) contains a number of provisions that may affect the individual health insurance market. This fact sheet offers a first look at selected costs and options for individual and family plans in Utah’s exchange, providing information about individual and family premiums for selected ages, as well as two cost-sharing measures: medical deductible and maximum out-of-pocket expenses.

Summary Cost Data for Health Plans Available in Virginia’s Exchange, 2014: Fact Sheet

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA, P.L. 111-148, as amended) contains a number of provisions that may affect the individual health insurance market. This fact sheet offers a first look at selected costs and options for individual and family plans in Virginia’s exchange, providing information about individual and family premiums for selected ages, as well as two cost-sharing measures: medical deductible and maximum out-of-pocket expenses.

Mail and Wire Fraud: A Brief Overview of Federal Criminal Law

It is a federal crime to devise a scheme to defraud another of property, when either mail or wire communications are used in furtherance of the scheme, 18 U.S.C. 1341, 1343. Mail or wire fraud includes schemes to defraud another of honest services, when the scheme involves bribery or a kick back, 18 U.S.C. 1346; Skilling v. United States, 561 U.S. 358 (2010). In order to convict, the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant (1) used either mail or wire communications in the foreseeable furtherance, (2) of a scheme to defraud, (3) involving a material deception,...

Summary Cost Data for Health Plans Available in West Virginia’s Exchange, 2014: Fact Sheet

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA, P.L. 111-148, as amended) contains a number of provisions that may affect the individual health insurance market. This fact sheet offers a first look at selected costs and options for individual and family plans in West Virginia’s exchange, providing information about individual and family premiums for selected ages, as well as two cost-sharing measures: medical deductible and maximum out-of-pocket expenses.

Mail and Wire Fraud: An Abridged Overview of Federal Criminal Law

It is a federal crime to devise a scheme to defraud another of property, when either mail or wire communications are used in furtherance of the scheme, 18 U.S.C. 1341, 1343. Mail or wire fraud includes schemes to defraud another of honest services, when the scheme involves bribery or a kick back, 18 U.S.C. 1346; Skilling v. United States, 130 S.Ct. 2896 (2010). In order to convict, the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant (1) used either mail or wire communications in the foreseeable furtherance, (2) of a scheme to defraud, (3) involving a material deception,...

Summary Cost Data for Health Plans Available in Wyoming’s Exchange, 2014: Fact Sheet

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA, P.L. 111-148, as amended) contains a number of provisions that may affect the individual health insurance market. This fact sheet offers a first look at selected costs and options for individual and family plans in Wyoming’s exchange, providing information about individual and family premiums for selected ages, as well as two cost-sharing measures: medical deductible and maximum out-of-pocket expenses.

“Womenomics” in Japan: In Brief

Japan women womenomics abenomics economy structural reforms gender gap marriage birth rate demographics equality immigration Confronted with decades of economic stagnation, strict immigration controls, and a rapidly aging population, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has launched an ambitious plan—widely known as “Abenomics”—to restart Japan’s economy. The program has three main components: a large fiscal stimulus that was injected into the economy in early 2013; expansionary monetary policy that also began in 2013 and continues today; and a series of planned structural economic reforms,...

Nominations to Cabinet Positions During Inter-Term Transitions Since 1984

Under the Constitution, high-level leadership positions in the executive branch are filled through appointment by the President “by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate.” These posts include most of the approximately two dozen that form the President’s Cabinet, which is an institution established by custom, rather than by law. In recent decades, it has become customary for each two-term President to reshuffle his Cabinet during the inter-term transition—the transition that takes place at the end of a President’s first term in office and beginning of his second term. Typically...

Summary Cost Data for Health Plans Available in South Carolina’s Exchange, 2014: Fact Sheet

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA, P.L. 111-148, as amended) contains a number of provisions that may affect the individual health insurance market. This fact sheet offers a first look at selected costs and options for individual and family plans in South Carolina’s exchange, providing information about individual and family premiums for selected ages, as well as two cost-sharing measures: medical deductible and maximum out-of-pocket expenses.

Summary Cost Data for Health Plans Available in Pennsylvania’s Exchange, 2014: Fact Sheet

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA, P.L. 111-148, as amended) contains a number of provisions that may affect the individual health insurance market. This fact sheet offers a first look at selected costs and options for individual and family plans in Pennsylvania’s exchange, providing information about individual and family premiums for selected ages, as well as two cost-sharing measures: medical deductible and maximum out-of-pocket expenses.

Summary Cost Data for Health Plans Available in Delaware’s Exchange, 2014: Fact Sheet

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA, P.L. 111-148, as amended) contains a number of provisions that may affect the individual health insurance market. This fact sheet offers a first look at selected costs and options for individual and family plans in Delaware’s exchange, providing information about individual and family premiums for selected ages, as well as two cost-sharing measures: medical deductible and maximum out-of-pocket expenses.

Summary Cost Data for Health Plans Available in Michigan’s Exchange, 2014: Fact Sheet

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA, P.L. 111-148, as amended) contains a number of provisions that may affect the individual health insurance market. This fact sheet offers a first look at selected costs and options for individual and family plans in Michigan’s exchange, providing information about individual and family premiums for selected ages, as well as two cost-sharing measures: medical deductible and maximum out-of-pocket expenses.

Summary Cost Data for Health Plans Available in Florida’s Exchange, 2014: Fact Sheet

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA, P.L. 111-148, as amended) contains a number of provisions that may affect the individual health insurance market. This fact sheet offers a first look at selected costs and options for individual and family plans in Florida’s exchange, providing information about individual and family premiums for selected ages, as well as two cost-sharing measures: medical deductible and maximum out-of-pocket expenses.

Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im) and the Federal Budget

This report briefly examines budgetary considerations regarding the Export-Import Bank, which finances and ensures U.S. exports of goods and services on a demand driven basis.

Privacy Protection for Customer Financial Information

One of the functions transferred to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) under P.L. 111-203, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank), is authority to issue regulations and take enforcement actions under the two major federal statutes that specify conditions under which customer financial information may be shared by financial institutions: Title V of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 (GLBA, P.L. 106-102) and the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Possible topics for congressional oversight in the 113th Congress include (1) the transition of...

Rwanda: Current Issues

Restitution in Federal Criminal Cases: A Sketch

Federal courts may not order a defendant to pay restitution to the victims of his or her crimes unless authorized by statute to do so. Several statutes supply such authorization. For instance, federal courts are statutorily required to order victim restitution when sentencing a defendant either for an offense against property, including fraud or deceit, proscribed in Title 18 of the United States Code or for a crime of violence. The obligation exists even if the defendant is indigent, and restitution must take the form of in-kind, lump sum, or installment payments. Federal courts are...

Restitution in Federal Criminal Cases

Federal courts may not order a defendant to pay restitution to the victims of his or her crimes unless authorized by statute to do so. Several statutes supply such authorization. For instance, federal courts are statutorily required to order victim restitution when sentencing a defendant either for an offense against property, including fraud or deceit, proscribed in Title 18 of the United States Code or for a crime of violence. The obligation exists even if the defendant is indigent, and restitution must take the form of in-kind, lump sum, or installment payments. Federal courts are...

Hatch Act: Candidacy for Office by Federal Employees in the Executive Branch

The federal law commonly known as the “Hatch Act” applies to all federal officers and employees—other than the President and Vice President—in the agencies, departments, bureaus, and offices of the executive branch of the federal government. Under the significant amendments made to the law in 1993, the Hatch Act now generally permits most federal employees to engage in a wide range of voluntary, partisan political activities on their own off-duty time and away from the federal workplace. Some employees in specified agencies and positions, including those dealing with law enforcement and...

Sponsorship and Cosponsorship of Senate Bills

A Senator who introduces a bill or other measure in the Senate is called its sponsor. Several Senators may submit a bill, but the first-named Senator is the chief sponsor, the others are considered cosponsors.

Senators typically sponsor bills they support. A Senator may introduce a bill as a courtesy, such as legislation proposed by the President. Such bills may be designated as introduced “by request,” and this is indicated when the introduction of the bill is noted in the Congressional Record.

Once a bill has been handed to the clerk, it becomes the property of the Senate and cannot be...

Syria: Overview of the Humanitarian Response

The ongoing conflict in Syria has created one of the most pressing humanitarian crises in the world. More than three years later, as of mid-June 2014, an estimated 9.3 million people inside Syria, nearly half the population, have been affected by the conflict, with nearly 6.5 million displaced. In addition, 2.8 million Syrians are displaced as refugees, with 97% fleeing to countries in the immediate surrounding region, including Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, and other parts of North Africa. The situation is fluid and continues to worsen, while humanitarian needs are immense and...

High-Frequency Trading: Background, Concerns, and Regulatory Developments

High-frequency trading (HFT) is a broad term without a precise legal or regulatory definition. It is used to describe what many characterize as a subset of algorithmic trading that involves very rapid placement of orders, in the realm of tiny fractions of a second. Regulators have been scrutinizing HFT practices for years, but public concern about this form of trading intensified following the April 2014 publication of a book by author Michael Lewis. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Department of Justice (DOJ), Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Commodity Futures Trading...

Summary Cost Data for Health Plans Available in Tennessee’s Exchange, 2014: Fact Sheet

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA, P.L. 111-148, as amended) contains a number of provisions that may affect the individual health insurance market. This fact sheet offers a first look at selected costs and options for individual and family plans in Tennessee’s exchange, providing information about individual and family premiums for selected ages, as well as two cost-sharing measures: medical deductible and maximum out-of-pocket expenses.

Summary Cost Data for Health Plans Available in Texas’s Exchange, 2014: Fact Sheet

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA, P.L. 111-148, as amended) contains a number of provisions that may affect the individual health insurance market. This fact sheet offers a first look at selected costs and options for individual and family plans in Texas’s exchange, providing information about individual and family premiums for selected ages, as well as two cost-sharing measures: medical deductible and maximum out-of-pocket expenses.

Summary Cost Data for Health Plans Available in South Dakota’s Exchange, 2014: Fact Sheet

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA, P.L. 111-148, as amended) contains a number of provisions that may affect the individual health insurance market. This fact sheet offers a first look at selected costs and options for individual and family plans in South Dakota’s exchange, providing information about individual and family premiums for selected ages, as well as two cost-sharing measures: medical deductible and maximum out-of-pocket expenses.

Disposal of Unneeded Federal Buildings: Legislative Proposals in the 113th Congress

Real property disposal is the process by which federal agencies identify and then transfer, donate, or sell real property they no longer need. Disposition is an important asset management function because the costs of maintaining unneeded properties can be substantial, consuming financial resources that might be applied to long-standing real property needs, such as repairing existing facilities, or other pressing policy issues, such as reducing the national debt.

Despite the expense, federal agencies hold thousands of unneeded and underutilized properties. Agencies have argued that they...

Medicare Physician Payment Updates and the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) System

The Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) is the statutory method for determining the annual updates to the Medicare physician fee schedule (MPFS). Under the SGR formula, if expenditures over a period are less than the cumulative spending target for the period, the annual update is increased. However, if spending exceeds the cumulative spending target over a certain period, future updates are reduced to bring spending back in line with the target.

In the first few years of the SGR system, the actual expenditures did not exceed the targets and the updates to the physician fee schedule were close to...

Metropolitan Area Designations by OMB: History, 2010 Standards, and Uses

On June 28, 2010, the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) announced its uniform criteria, or “standards,” for delineating metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas in the decade 2010 to 2020. Together, these areas are known informally as “metropolitan areas” and officially as “core-based statistical areas” (CBSAs); “core” refers to a large population concentration that is socially and economically integrated with surrounding territory. Also announced were the standards for delineating New England city and town areas (NECTAs), which are conceptually similar to CBSAs. The 2010...

The Federal Estate, Gift, and Generation-Skipping Transfer Taxes

This report contains an explanation of the major provisions of the federal estate, gift, and generation-skipping transfer taxes as they apply to transfers in 2014. The following discussion provides basic principles regarding the computation of these three transfer taxes.

The federal estate and generation-skipping transfer taxes were resurrected by the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 (P.L. 111-312) after a hiatus of one year (2010). The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (ATRA) permanently extended the estate tax rules enacted by the 2010...

Estate and Gift Taxes for Nonresident Aliens

This report explains the major provisions of the federal estate and gift transfer taxes as they apply to transfers by nonresident aliens in 2014. Estate and gift taxes are two federal transfer taxes imposed on the passing of property title from one person or entity to another. The federal estate tax is levied on the transfer of property at death, while the federal gift tax is levied on the transfer of property during life by one individual to another while receiving nothing or less than full value in return. The following discussion provides basic principles regarding the computation of...

U.S. Circuit and District Court Nominations: Senate Rejections and Committee Votes Other Than to Report Favorably, 1939-2013

Once a nomination to a U.S. circuit court of appeals or district court judgeship is submitted to the Senate by the President, the Senate almost invariably refers it to the Senate Judiciary Committee. If the Judiciary Committee schedules a vote on a nominee, it usually will vote on a motion to report the nomination favorably. However, the committee could also vote on a motion to report without recommendation, to report unfavorably, or to table the nomination. If the committee votes to report—whether favorably, without recommendation, or unfavorably—the nomination moves to the full Senate....

The Administrative Process by Which Groups May Be Acknowledged as Indian Tribes by the Department of the Interior

In 1978, the Department of the Interior (Department) adopted a final rule setting forth the process by which a group may be recognized (also acknowledged) as an Indian tribe by the Department. Prior to that time, the Department made decisions on an ad hoc basis. However, in the wake of the treaty fishing rights case United States v. Washington and eastern land claims, more groups started seeking recognition as Indian tribes, and the Department could no longer manage the recognition requests on a case-by-case basis. The acknowledgement process, codified in 25 C.F.R. Part 83, sets forth a...

Administrative Law Primer: Statutory Definitions of “Agency” and Characteristics of Agency Independence

Congress has created a variety of federal agencies to execute the law. To this end, agencies may adopt rules to implement laws and adjudicate certain disputes arising under such laws. As such, agencies enjoy considerable power to regulate different industries and affect the legal rights of people. In order to control the manner in which agencies operate, Congress has passed numerous statutes that impose procedural requirements on federal agencies. The Administrative Procedure Act, for example, dictates the procedures an agency must follow to establish a final, legally binding rule. Other...

Publications of Congressional Committees: A Summary

House and Senate committees publish a variety of documents dealing with legislative and other policy issues, investigations, and internal committee matters. These include committee hearings; legislative, investigative, conference committee, and committee activity reports; calendars; and committee prints. These publications are usually available from the issuing committee, the House or Senate document rooms, and increasingly, from committee websites as well. For more information on congressional operations, see http://crs.gov/analysis/Pages/CongressionalOperations.aspx.

Publications of the U.S. Senate

The U.S. Senate produces several publications relating to the legislative functions of the Senate. They include, but are not limited to, publications dealing with rules and procedures, bills, anticipated and past legislative activities, committee matters, and chamber proceedings. This report provides a brief description of these publications.

Publications of the U.S. House of Representatives

The U.S. House of Representatives produces several publications relating to the legislative functions of the House. They include, but are not limited to, publications dealing with rules and procedures, bills, anticipated and past legislative activities, committee matters, and chamber proceedings. This report provides a brief description of these publications.

House Office of General Counsel

The Office of General Counsel of the House of Representatives provides legal assistance and representation to Members, committees, officers, and employees of the House of Representatives on matters pertaining to their official duties. These services may include advising offices on confidentiality issues, release of constituent information, requests from executive branch agencies, and the issuance and response to subpoenas. The office is led by the House General Counsel, who is appointed by the Speaker of the House in consultation with the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group. The professional...

Summary Cost Data for Health Plans Available in New Jersey’s Exchange, 2014: Fact Sheet

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA, P.L. 111-148, as amended) contains a number of provisions that may affect the individual health insurance market. This fact sheet offers a first look at selected costs and options for individual and family plans in New Jersey’s exchange, providing information about individual and family premiums for selected ages, as well as two cost-sharing measures: medical deductible and maximum out-of-pocket expenses.

Summary Cost Data for Health Plans Available in New Mexico’s Exchange, 2014: Fact Sheet

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA, P.L. 111-148, as amended) contains a number of provisions that may affect the individual health insurance market. This fact sheet offers a first look at selected costs and options for individual and family plans in New Mexico’s exchange, providing information about individual and family premiums for selected ages, as well as two cost-sharing measures: medical deductible and maximum out-of-pocket expenses.

Summary Cost Data for Health Plans Available in Nebraska’s Exchange, 2014: Fact Sheet

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA, P.L. 111-148, as amended) contains a number of provisions that may affect the individual health insurance market. This fact sheet offers a first look at selected costs and options for individual and family plans in Nebraska’s exchange, providing information about individual and family premiums for selected ages, as well as two cost-sharing measures: medical deductible and maximum out-of-pocket expenses.

Summary Cost Data for Health Plans Available in Oklahoma’s Exchange, 2014: Fact Sheet

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA, P.L. 111-148, as amended) contains a number of provisions that may affect the individual health insurance market. This fact sheet offers a first look at selected costs and options for individual and family plans in Oklahoma’s exchange, providing information about individual and family premiums for selected ages, as well as two cost-sharing measures: medical deductible and maximum out-of-pocket expenses.

Summary Cost Data for Health Plans Available in New Hampshire’s Exchange, 2014: Fact Sheet

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA, P.L. 111-148, as amended) contains a number of provisions that may affect the individual health insurance market. This fact sheet offers a first look at selected costs and options for individual and family plans in New Hampshire’s exchange, providing information about individual and family premiums for selected ages, as well as two cost-sharing measures: medical deductible and maximum out-of-pocket expenses.

Summary Cost Data for Health Plans Available in Ohio’s Exchange, 2014: Fact Sheet

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA, P.L. 111-148, as amended) contains a number of provisions that may affect the individual health insurance market. This fact sheet offers a first look at selected costs and options for individual and family plans in Ohio’s exchange, providing information about individual and family premiums for selected ages, as well as two cost-sharing measures: medical deductible and maximum out-of-pocket expenses.

Everglades Restoration: CERP and the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP)

This report provides definition for everglades, describes what is the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), and discusses the restoration of everglades project.

U.S. Circuit Court Judges: Profile of Professional Experiences Prior to Appointment

This report provides an analysis of the professional qualifications and experiences of U.S. circuit court judges who are currently serving on the federal bench. Interest in the professional qualifications of those nominated to the federal judiciary has been demonstrated by Congress and others. Congressional interest in the professional experiences of those nominated by a President to the federal courts reflects, in part, the evaluative role of Congress in examining the qualifications of those who are nominated to life-tenure positions. Other organizations, such as the American Bar...

Provisions in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 as an Alternative to a Traditional Budget Resolution

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 (P.L. 113-67) included as Title I, Subtitle B, a section titled, “Establishing a Congressional Budget” designed to serve as a substitute for a traditional congressional budget resolution for FY2014 and potentially for FY2015. This report provides an explanation of such provisions, highlights how those provisions compare with a traditional budget resolution, and places them within the context of the budget process for FY2014 and FY2015.This report assumes a general understanding of the congressional budget process. For more information on the budget...

Medicare Secondary Payer: Coordination of Benefits

Medicare is a federal program that covers medical services for qualified beneficiaries. Established in 1965 to provide health insurance to individuals age 65 and older, Medicare has been expanded to include disabled individuals under 65. Medicare now consists of four parts (A-D) that cover hospitalizations, physician services, prescription drugs, skilled nursing facility care, home health visits, hospice care, and other treatments. Generally, Medicare is the “primary payer” for medical services, meaning that it pays health claims first. If a beneficiary has other health insurance, that...

Low-Income Assistance Programs: Trends in Federal Spending

This report examines the spending trends of 10 major need-tested benefit programs or groups of programs: (1) health care from Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP); (2) the refundable portion of the health insurance tax credit enacted in the 2010 health care reform law; (3) the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); (4) assisted housing; (5) financial assistance for post-secondary students (Pell Grants); (6) compensatory education grants to school districts; (7) the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC); (8) the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC); (9)...

Summary Cost Data for Health Plans Available in Montana’s Exchange, 2014: Fact Sheet

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA, P.L. 111-148, as amended) contains a number of provisions that may affect the individual health insurance market. This fact sheet offers a first look at selected costs and options for individual and family plans in Montana’s exchange, providing information about individual and family premiums for selected ages, as well as two cost-sharing measures: medical deductible and maximum out-of-pocket expenses.

Summary Cost Data for Health Plans Available in North Dakota’s Exchange, 2014: Fact Sheet

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA, P.L. 111-148, as amended) contains a number of provisions that may affect the individual health insurance market. This fact sheet offers a first look at selected costs and options for individual and family plans in North Dakota’s exchange, providing information about individual and family premiums for selected ages, as well as two cost-sharing measures: medical deductible and maximum out-of-pocket expenses.

Summary Cost Data for Health Plans Available in North Carolina’s Exchange, 2014: Fact Sheet

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA, P.L. 111-148, as amended) contains a number of provisions that may affect the individual health insurance market. This fact sheet offers a first look at selected costs and options for individual and family plans in North Carolina’s exchange, providing information about individual and family premiums for selected ages, as well as two cost-sharing measures: medical deductible and maximum out-of-pocket expenses.

Summary Cost Data for Health Plans Available in Idaho’s Exchange, 2014: Fact Sheet

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA, P.L. 111-148, as amended) contains a number of provisions that may affect the individual health insurance market. This fact sheet offers a first look at selected costs and options for individual and family plans in Idaho’s exchange, providing information about individual and family premiums for selected ages, as well as two cost-sharing measures: medical deductible and maximum out-of-pocket expenses.

Summary Cost Data for Health Plans Available in Mississippi’s Exchange, 2014: Fact Sheet

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA, P.L. 111-148, as amended) contains a number of provisions that may affect the individual health insurance market. This fact sheet offers a first look at selected costs and options for individual and family plans in Mississippi’s exchange, providing information about individual and family premiums for selected ages, as well as two cost-sharing measures: medical deductible and maximum out-of-pocket expenses.

Summary Cost Data for Health Plans Available in Missouri’s Exchange, 2014: Fact Sheet

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA, P.L. 111-148, as amended) contains a number of provisions that may affect the individual health insurance market. This fact sheet offers a first look at selected costs and options for individual and family plans in Missouri’s exchange, providing information about individual and family premiums for selected ages, as well as two cost-sharing measures: medical deductible and maximum out-of-pocket expenses.

Traditional Benefits and Alternative Benefit Plans Under Medicaid

The Medicaid program, which served an estimated 56.7 million people in FY2012, finances the delivery of a wide variety of preventive, primary, and acute care services as well as long-term services and supports for certain low-income populations. Benefits are available to beneficiaries through two avenues: traditional coverage and alternative benefit plans (ABPs, formerly known as benchmark plans, first established in P.L. 109-171, the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005).

The traditional Medicaid program covers a wide variety of mandatory services (e.g., inpatient hospital services, lab/x-ray...

Comcast-Time Warner Cable Merger

Apprehensions of Unauthorized Migrants along the Southwest Border: Fact Sheet

This fact sheet provides information regarding the number of unauthorized migrants apprehended between ports of entry along the Southwest border from FY2000 to FY2013. It includes

trends in apprehension numbers across the Southwest border patrol sectors since FY2000; and

a breakdown of apprehensions of nationals from Mexico and nationals from countries other than Mexico along the Southwest border patrol sectors.

Summary Cost Data for Health Plans Available in Maine’s Exchange, 2014: Fact Sheet

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA, P.L. 111-148, as amended) contains a number of provisions that may affect the individual health insurance market. This fact sheet offers a first look at selected costs and options for individual and family plans in Maine’s exchange, providing information about individual and family premiums for selected ages, as well as two cost-sharing measures: medical deductible and maximum out-of-pocket expenses.

Health Insurance Premium Credits in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2014

New federal tax credits, authorized under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA, P.L. 111-148, as amended), first became available in 2014 to help certain individuals pay for health insurance. The tax credits apply toward premiums for private health plans offered through “exchanges” (also referred to as health insurance marketplaces). ACA also establishes subsidies to reduce cost-sharing expenses.

Exchanges have been established in every state, either by the state itself or by the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), as required under ACA. Exchanges are not insurers,...

Summary Cost Data for Health Plans Available in Indiana’s Exchange, 2014: Fact Sheet

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA, P.L. 111-148, as amended) contains a number of provisions that may affect the individual health insurance market. This fact sheet offers a first look at selected costs and options for individual and family plans in Indiana’s exchange, providing information about individual and family premiums for selected ages, as well as two cost-sharing measures: medical deductible and maximum out-of-pocket expenses.

Summary Cost Data for Health Plans Available in Louisiana’s Exchange, 2014: Fact Sheet

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA, P.L. 111-148, as amended) contains a number of provisions that may affect the individual health insurance market. This fact sheet offers a first look at selected costs and options for individual and family plans in Louisiana’s exchange, providing information about individual and family premiums for selected ages, as well as two cost-sharing measures: medical deductible and maximum out-of-pocket expenses.

Summary Cost Data for Health Plans Available in Kansas’s Exchange, 2014: Fact Sheet

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA, P.L. 111-148, as amended) contains a number of provisions that may affect the individual health insurance market. This fact sheet offers a first look at selected costs and options for individual and family plans in Kansas’s exchange, providing information about individual and family premiums for selected ages, as well as two cost-sharing measures: medical deductible and maximum out-of-pocket expenses.

Community Development Block Grants and Related Programs: A Primer

The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), was first authorized by Title I of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974, P.L. 93-383 (42 U.S.C. 5301, et seq.). The program is one of the largest and longest-standing federal block grants in existence, annually allocating billions of dollars in federal assistance to state and local governments in support of local neighborhood revitalization, housing rehabilitation, and community and economic development efforts. During the program’s 40-year existence,...

EPA’s Proposed Wood Stove / Wood Heater Regulations: Frequently Asked Questions

On January 3, 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released proposed emission standards for new residential wood heaters, the most common of which are wood stoves, pellet stoves, hydronic heaters, and forced air furnaces. The proposal, which would revise standards for wood stoves and pellet stoves and establish standards for other types of wood heaters for the first time, appeared in the Federal Register on February 3. This began a public comment period that is scheduled to run until May 5, 2014.

According to EPA, smoke from wood heaters contributes hundreds of thousands of...

Summary Cost Data for Health Plans Available in Georgia’s Exchange, 2014: Fact Sheet

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA, P.L. 111-148, as amended) contains a number of provisions that may affect the individual health insurance market. This fact sheet offers a first look at selected costs and options for individual and family plans in Georgia’s exchange, providing information about individual and family premiums for selected ages, as well as two cost-sharing measures: medical deductible and maximum out-of-pocket expenses.

SNAP and Related Nutrition Provisions of the 2014 Farm Bill (P.L. 113-79)

After action to reauthorize the 2008 farm bill in both the 112th and 113th Congresses, the Agriculture Act of 2014 (P.L. 113-79; 2014 farm bill) was enacted on February 7, 2014. In addition to farm programs and other agricultural policies, this newest omnibus farm bill reauthorizes the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and other related nutrition programs. Farm bills since 1973 have included reauthorization of the Food Stamp Program (now called SNAP).

The enacted 2014 law reconciles differences between the House-passed bill (H.R. 2642, as combined with H.R. 3102, Nutrition...

Summary Cost Data for Health Plans Available in Iowa’s Exchange, 2014: Fact Sheet

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA, P.L. 111-148, as amended) contains a number of provisions that may affect the individual health insurance market. This fact sheet offers a first look at selected costs and options for individual and family plans in Iowa’s exchange, providing information about individual and family premiums for selected ages, as well as two cost-sharing measures: medical deductible and maximum out-of-pocket expenses.

Summary Cost Data for Health Plans Available in Illinois’s Exchange, 2014: Fact Sheet

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA, P.L. 111-148, as amended) contains a number of provisions that may affect the individual health insurance market. This fact sheet offers a first look at selected costs and options for individual and family plans in Illinois’s exchange, providing information about individual and family premiums for selected ages, as well as two cost-sharing measures: medical deductible and maximum out-of-pocket expenses.

Obstruction of Justice: An Abridged Overview of Related Federal Criminal Laws

Obstruction of justice is the frustration of governmental purposes by violence, corruption, destruction of evidence, or deceit. It is a federal crime. In fact, it is several crimes. Obstruction prosecutions regularly involve charges under several statutory provisions. Federal obstruction of justice laws are legion; too many for even passing reference to all of them in a single report.

The general obstruction of justice provisions are six: 18 U.S.C. 1512 (tampering with federal witnesses), 1513 (retaliating against federal witnesses), 1503 (obstruction of pending federal court proceedings),...

Obstruction of Justice: An Overview of Some of the Federal Statutes That Prohibit Interference with Judicial, Executive, or Legislative Activities

Obstruction of justice is the impediment of governmental activities. There are a host of federal criminal laws that prohibit obstructions of justice. The six most general outlaw obstruction of judicial proceedings (18 U.S.C. 1503), witness tampering (18 U.S.C. 1512), witness retaliation (18 U.S.C. 1513), obstruction of congressional or administrative proceedings (18 U.S.C. 1505), conspiracy to defraud the United States (18 U.S.C. 371), and contempt (a creature of statute, rule and common law).

The laws that supplement, and sometimes mirror, the basic six tend to proscribe a particular...

Overview of Health Care Changes in the FY2015 House Budget

On April 1, 2014, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan released the chairmans mark of the FY2015 House budget resolution together with his non-binding report entitled The Path to Prosperity: Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Resolution, which outlines his budgetary objectives. The House Budget Committee considered and amended the chairmans mark on April 2, 2014, and voted to report the budget resolution to the full House. H.Con.Res. 96 was introduced in the House April 4, 2014, and was accompanied by the committee report (H.Rept. 113-403). H.Con.Res. 96 was agreed to by the House on April 10,...

Summary Cost Data for Health Plans Available in Alaska’s Exchange, 2014: Fact Sheet

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA, P.L. 111-148, as amended) contains a number of provisions that may affect the individual health insurance market. This fact sheet offers a first look at selected costs and options for individual and family plans in Alaska’s exchange, providing information about individual and family premiums for selected ages, as well as two cost-sharing measures: medical deductible and maximum out-of-pocket expenses.

Summary Cost Data for Health Plans Available in Alabama’s Exchange, 2014: Fact Sheet

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA, P.L. 111-148, as amended) contains a number of provisions that may affect the individual health insurance market. This fact sheet offers a first look at selected costs and options for individual and family plans in Alabama’s exchange, providing information about individual and family premiums for selected ages, as well as two cost-sharing measures: medical deductible and maximum out-of-pocket expenses.

Summary Cost Data for Health Plans Available in Arkansas’s Exchange, 2014: Fact Sheet

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA, P.L. 111-148, as amended) contains a number of provisions that may affect the individual health insurance market. This fact sheet offers a first look at selected costs and options for individual and family plans in Arkansas’s exchange, providing information about individual and family premiums for selected ages, as well as two cost-sharing measures: medical deductible and maximum out-of-pocket expenses.

Summary Cost Data for Health Plans Available in Arizona’s Exchange, 2014: Fact Sheet

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA, P.L. 111-148, as amended) contains a number of provisions that may affect the individual health insurance market. This fact sheet offers a first look at selected costs and options for individual and family plans in Arizona’s exchange, providing information about individual and family premiums for selected ages, as well as two cost-sharing measures: medical deductible and maximum out-of-pocket expenses.

Congressional Adoption of Vine

Campaign Contribution Limits: Selected Questions About McCutcheon and Policy Issues for Congress

Recently invalidated aggregate limits on federal campaign contributions capped the total amount that one can give to all candidates, parties, or political action committees (PACs). For the 2014 election cycle, the aggregate limit for individual contributions was $123,200.The Supreme Court of the United States struck down the aggregate limits on April 2, 2014. Alabama contributor Shaun McCutcheon and the Republican National Committee (RNC) brought the case, McCutcheon v. FEC, after the aggregate limits prevented McCutcheon from contributing as desired to federal candidates and parties...

Federal Support for Streetcars: Frequently Asked Questions

Streetcars, a type of rail public transportation, are experiencing a revival in the United States. Also known as trolleys, streetcars were widespread in the early decades of the 20th century, but almost extinct by the 1960s. Several new streetcar systems have been built over the past 20 years, and many more are being planned. In early 2014, there were 12 operating streetcar systems, 7 new systems under construction, and approximately 21 new systems in the planning stages. Many streetcars systems, though not all, have been built or are being built with the support of federal funds.

This...

Survivor Benefits for Families of Civilian Federal Employees and Retirees

Federal employees with permanent appointments may be eligible for retirement and disability benefits under either the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) or the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS). Most federal employees initially hired into permanent federal employment on or after January 1, 1984, are covered by FERS. Employees hired before January 1, 1984, are covered by CSRS unless they chose to switch to FERS during open seasons held in 1987 and 1998. Both FERS and CSRS provide survivor benefits for spouses and dependent children of employees and retirees. Survivors who had...

Credit for Military Service Under Civilian Federal Employee Retirement Systems

Federal employees with permanent appointments earn pension benefits under one of two retirement plans. Employees hired after 1983 participate in the Federal Employees’ Retirement System (FERS). Employees hired before 1984 participate in the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) unless they elected to transfer to the FERS during open seasons held in 1987 and 1998. When Congress established the CSRS in 1920, it allowed veterans who subsequently became civilian federal employees to count their years of active-duty military service toward retirement eligibility and pension benefits under...

IMF Quota and Governance Reforms

Safe Harbor for Online Service Providers Under Section 512(c) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act

Congress passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in 1998 in an effort to adapt copyright law to emerging digital technologies that potentially could be used to exponentially increase infringing activities online. Title II of the DMCA, titled the “Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act,” added a new Section 512 to the Copyright Act (Title 17 of the U.S. Code) in order to limit the liability of providers of Internet access and online services that may arise due to their users posting or sharing materials that infringe copyrights. Congress was concerned that without...

Net Neutrality: The FCC's Authority to Regulate Broadband Internet Traffic Management

This report discusses the major debate over the government's role in the Internet. Legally, the question appears to be whether the Federal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission) currently has the authority to regulate the ways in which Internet Service Providers (ISPs) manage Internet traffic over their networks.

Disability Retirement for Federal Employees

Paid sick leave, disability retirement, or workers’ compensation may provide benefits for federal civilian employees during periods of illness, disability, or workplace injury, respectively. Federal civilian employees earn 13 days of paid sick leave per year. Sick leave can be used because of the worker’s own illness or injury or to care for an ill or injured family member. A worker’s employing agency can advance up to 30 additional days of sick leave to an employee who has exhausted his or her accrued sick leave. A federal worker with a long-term disability can separate from service...

The Trend in Long-Term Unemployment and Characteristics of Workers Unemployed for Two Years or More

This report discusses trends in long term unemployment and characteristics such as gender, age, education, marital status of the very long-term for the unemployed.

Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD): FY2015 Budget Request Overview and Resources

Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) FY2015 President’s Budget Request

The Role of TARP Assistance in the Restructuring of General Motors

In 2008 and 2009, collapsing world credit markets and a slowing global economy combined to create the worst market in decades for production and sale of motor vehicles in the United States and other industrial countries. Concern about the economic impact of a possible collapse of large parts of the U.S. automobile industry led both the Bush Administration and Members of Congress to seek legislative avenues to assist the automakers. Ultimately, General Motors Corporation (Old GM) and its successor General Motors Company (New GM) together received more than $50 billion in federal assistance...

Tax-Preferred College Savings Plans: An Introduction to Coverdells

In the face of the rising cost of higher education, families may consider a variety of ways to finance their children’s college expenses. In order to make higher education more affordable, Congress has enacted legislation that provides favorable tax treatment for college savings. Among their options, families may choose to use a Coverdell education savings account (ESA) to save for their child’s elementary, secondary, or college education expenses.

A Coverdell ESA—often referred to simply as a Coverdell—is a tax-advantaged investment account that can be used to pay for both...

Budgetary and Distributional Effects of Adopting the Chained CPI

This report examines the budgetary and distributional effects of using what is referred to as the Chained Consumer Price Index (C-CPI-U or chained CPI) as the official measure of inflation for adjusting federal revenue and spending programs for inflation.

Several other variations of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) are currently used to make automatic adjustments that affect both outlays and revenues. For example, the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) is the basis for adjusting Social Security benefits, while the Consumer Price Index for All Urban...

The Tax Reform Act of 2014

The Congressional Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education Caucus and the Congressional Academic Competition: History and Current Practice

In February 2013, the House of Representatives announced that there will be an annual Congressional Academic Competition for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education. The aim of the competition is to promote entrepreneurship and innovation. The annual competition is open to any enrolled high school or homeschooled student in a participating congressional district.

The first Congressional Academic Competition focuses on developing applications for mobile, tablet, and computer platforms. The 2014 competition is known as the House Student App Challenge. Recognizing...

European Union Enlargement

The European Union (EU) has long viewed the enlargement process as an extraordinary opportunity to promote political stability and economic prosperity in Europe. Since 2004, EU membership has grown from 15 to 28 countries, bringing in most states of Central and Eastern Europe and fulfilling an historic pledge to further the integration of the continent by peaceful means. Croatia is the EU’s newest member, acceding to the EU on July 1, 2013.

Analysts contend that the carefully managed process of enlargement is one of the EU’s most powerful policy tools, and that, over the years, it has...

Table Egg Production and Hen Welfare: Agreement and Legislative Proposals

The United Egg Producers (UEP), the largest group representing egg producers, and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the largest animal protection group, have been adversaries for many years over the use of conventional cages in table egg production. In July 2011, the animal agriculture community was stunned when the UEP and HSUS announced that they had agreed to work together to push for federal legislation to regulate how U.S. table eggs are produced. The agreement between UEP and HSUS called for federal legislation that would set cage sizes, establish labeling requirements,...

An Overview of the Section 8 Housing Programs: Housing Choice Vouchers and Project-Based Rental Assistance

The Section 8 low-income housing program is really two programs authorized under Section 8 of the U.S. Housing Act of 1937, as amended: the Housing Choice Voucher program and the project-based rental assistance program. Vouchers are portable subsidies that low-income families can use to lower their rents in the private market. Vouchers are administered at the local level by quasi-governmental public housing authorities (PHAs). Project-based rental assistance is a form of rental subsidy that is attached to a unit of privately owned housing. Low-income families who move into the housing pay...

Early Release for Federal Inmates: Fact Sheet

This fact sheet highlights current authorities available to provide early release for federal inmates. These authorities include good conduct time awarded by the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) under 18 U.S.C. §3624(b); participation in a BOP residential substance abuse treatment program under 18 U.S.C. §3621; and a reduction in sentence under 18 U.S.C. §3582(c)(1)(A).

Public Financing of Presidential Campaigns: Overview and Analysis

The presidential public campaign financing program (the Presidential Election Campaign Fund [PECF]) is funded through “checkoff” designations on individual income tax returns. Choosing to participate (or not) in the checkoff does not affect one’s tax liability or refund. Candidates who choose to participate in the program may receive taxpayer-funded matches of privately raised funds during primary campaigns, and grants during the general-election contest. Public funds also subsidize nominating conventions. The public financing system has remained largely unchanged since the 1970s. However,...

Oversight and Legal Enforcement of the National Mortgage Settlement

In Autumn 2010, all 50 state attorneys general, the attorney general for the District of Columbia, the Conference of State Bank Supervisors, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the U.S. Department of the Treasury (Treasury Department) initiated an investigation into foreclosure-related state and federal law violations by the nation’s top five mortgage servicers: Ally Financial, Inc. (formerly GMAC, Inc.); Bank of America, Corp.; Citigroup, Inc.; JP Morgan Chase & Co.; and Wells Fargo & Co. On February 8, 2012, these state...

Perjury Under Federal Law: A Brief Overview

Although it now covers more than court proceedings, the definition of perjury has not changed a great deal otherwise since the framing of the Constitution. Blackstone described it as “a crime committed when a lawful oath is administered, in some judicial proceeding, to a person who swears wilfully, absolutely and falsely, in a matter material to the issue or point in question.”

There are three general federal perjury laws. One, 18 U.S.C. 1621, outlaws presenting material false statements under oath in federal official proceedings. A second, 18 U.S.C. 1623, bars presenting material false...

Perjury Under Federal Law: A Sketch of the Elements

Although it now covers more than court proceedings, the definition of perjury has not changed a great deal otherwise since the framing of the Constitution. Blackstone described it as “a crime committed when a lawful oath is administered, in some judicial proceeding, to a person who swears wilfully, absolutely and falsely, in a matter material to the issue or point in question.”

There are three general federal perjury laws. One, 18 U.S.C. 1621, outlaws presenting material false statements under oath in federal official proceedings. A second, 18 U.S.C. 1623, bars presenting material false...

International Parental Child Abductions

International child custody disputes are likely to increase in frequency as the global society becomes more integrated and mobile. A child custody dispute between two parents can become a diplomatic imbroglio between two countries. Since 1988, the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (“Hague Convention” or “Convention”) has been the principal mechanism for enforcing the return of abducted children to the United States. While the treaty authorizes the prompt return of the abducted child, it does not impose criminal sanctions on the abducting parent....

Individual Development Accounts (IDAs): Background on Federal Grant Programs to Help Low-Income Families Save

Individual Development Accounts (IDAs) are savings accounts to help low-income families and persons save for specified purposes, usually education, purchase of a home, or to start a business. IDA programs match an individual’s contributions, much like retirement 401(k) accounts. The Assets For Independence (AFI) Act, enacted by Congress in 1998, specifically authorizes IDA demonstration programs. Authorization for the AFI program expired at the end of FY2003, though Congress continued to appropriate money for the program. AFI is funded at $19.026 million for FY2014.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI): Becoming Insured, Calculating Benefit Payments, and the Effect of Dropout Year Provisions

Eligibility for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits are based on a worker’s insured status, and payment levels are associated with the individual’s career earnings under covered employment. Monthly payments are calculated using a formula that takes into account the period of employment, a worker’s average earnings over that period, and the application of “dropout years.”

To be insured for SSDI benefits, a claimant must have worked a minimum amount of time in covered employment. First, a worker must be “fully insured,” which requires one quarter of coverage for each...

Supplemental Security Income (SSI): Income/Resource Limits and Accounts Exempt from Benefit Determinations

The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, authorized by Title XVI of the Social Security Act, is a means-tested income assistance program financed from general tax revenues. Under SSI, disabled, blind, or aged individuals who have low incomes and limited resources are eligible for benefits regardless of their work histories. In December 2013, more than 8.3 million individuals received SSI benefits, receiving monthly payments of $529.15 on average. The SSI program paid out over $4.6 billion in federally administered benefits that month. All but four states and the Commonwealth of the...

Clean Water Act and Pollutant Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs)

Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act (CWA) requires states to identify waters that are impaired by pollution, even after application of pollution controls. For those waters, states must establish a total maximum daily load (TMDL) of pollutants to ensure that water quality standards can be attained. A TMDL is both a quantitative assessment of pollution sources and pollutant reductions needed to restore and protect U.S. waters and a planning process for attaining water quality standards. Implementation of Section 303(d) was dormant until states and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)...

Financial Assets and Conflict of Interest Regulation in the Executive Branch

Congressional offices reviewing or conducting oversight concerning the operations of executive agencies and departments, reviewing executive branch nominees for high-level appointments, or responding to constituent inquiries or petitions, may often be confronted with issues and questions of possible “conflicts of interest” of agency officials or nominees. This report summarizes and analyzes the issues of conflicts of interest that are addressed in federal law and regulation regarding officers and employees in the executive branch of the federal government.

Federal conflict of interest laws...

Social Security: Substantial Gainful Activity for the Blind

In the Social Security disability program, the level of earnings that constitute “substantial gainful activity” (SGA), and therefore disqualifies a person from receiving benefits, is set by regulation at $1,070 a month for 2014. However, the law provides a different SGA level for the blind at $1,800 a month for 2014, which is adjusted annually to reflect growth in average wages. This report discusses the reasons for these differing amounts and proposals to change them. The appendix section of the report charts the difference between the two amounts from 1975 to 2014.

Social Security Reform: Current Issues and Legislation

Social Security reform is an issue of ongoing interest to policy makers. In recent years, Social Security program changes have been discussed in the context of negotiations on legislation to increase the federal debt limit and reduce federal budget deficits. For example, in August 2011, the Budget Control Act of 2011 (P.L. 112-25) established a Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction tasked with recommending ways to reduce the deficit by at least $1.5 trillion over the fiscal year period 2012 to 2021. Social Security program changes were among the measures discussed by the Joint...

Pharmaceutical Patent Settlements: Issues in Innovation and Competitiveness

Although brand-name pharmaceutical companies routinely procure patents on their innovative medications, such rights are not self-enforcing. Brand-name firms that wish to enforce their patents against generic competitors must therefore commence litigation in the federal courts. Such litigation ordinarily terminates in either a judgment of infringement, which typically blocks generic competition until such time as the patent expires, or a judgment that the patent is invalid or not infringed, which typically opens the market to generic entry.

As with other sorts of commercial litigation,...

The District of Columbia Tuition Assistance Grant (DCTAG) Program

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

Compulsory Licensing of Patented Inventions

The term “compulsory license” refers to the grant of permission for an enterprise seeking to use another’s intellectual property without the consent of its proprietor. The grant of a compulsory patent license typically requires the sanction of a governmental entity and provides for compensation to the patent owner. Compulsory licenses in the patent system most often relate to pharmaceuticals and other inventions pertaining to public health, but they potentially apply to any patented invention.

U.S. law allows for the issuance of compulsory licenses in a number of circumstances, and also...

Trade Promotion Authority (TPA)

Trust Preferred Securities (TruPS)

Inflation and the Real Minimum Wage: A Fact Sheet

The Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938 established the hourly minimum wage rate at 25 cents for covered workers. Since then, it has been raised 22 separate times, in part to keep up with rising prices. Most recently, in July 2009, it was increased to $7.25 an hour. Because there have been some extended periods between these adjustments while inflation generally has increased, the real value (purchasing power) of the minimum wage has decreased substantially over time.

Status of Mexican Trucks in the United States: Frequently Asked Questions

Border trucking, cross-border trucking, mexican trucks, trucking pilot, Mexico, NAFTA,

Moving to Work (MTW): Housing Assistance Demonstration Program

The Moving to Work (MTW) demonstration program was created by Congress in 1996 to give the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and local Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) the flexibility to test alternative policies for providing housing assistance through the nation’s two largest housing assistance programs: the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program and the public housing program. The alternative policies are meant to increase the cost-effectiveness of assisted housing programs, promote the self-sufficiency of assisted families, and increase housing choices for...

Tax Rates and Economic Growth

This report summarizes the evidence on the relationship between tax rates and economic growth, referring in a number of cases to other CRS reports providing more substance and detail. Potentially negative effects of tax rates on economic growth have been an issue in the debates about whether to increase taxes to reduce the deficit and whether to reform taxes by broadening the base to lowering tax rates.

Initially, it is important to make a distinction between the effects of policies aimed at short-term stimulation of an underemployed economy and long-run growth. In the short run, both...

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA): An Overview

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) provides workers with minimum wage, overtime pay, and child labor protections. The FLSA covers most, but not all, private and public sector employees. In addition, certain employers and employees are exempt from coverage.

Provisions of the FLSA that are of current interest to Congress include the basic minimum wage, subminimum wage rates, exemptions from overtime and the minimum wage for certain persons who provide companionship services, the exemption for certain employees in computer-related occupations, compensatory time (“comp time”) in lieu of...

Federal Traffic Safety Programs: In Brief

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, FMCSA, NHTSA, motorcoach, highway safety, traffic safety, seat belts, motorcycles, helmets, vehicle safety, Department of Transportation, DOT, bus safety

Compensatory Time and the Working Families Flexibility Act of 2013

On May 8, 2013, the House passed H.R. 1406, the Working Families Flexibility Act of 2013. If enacted, this bill would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to allow private sector employers to provide future paid leave (compensatory time or comp time) in lieu of overtime wages.

Under current law, the FLSA requires employers to pay covered, nonexempt employees one and one-half times their regular hourly wage (“time and a half”) for any hours worked in excess of 40 in a single work week. If enacted, H.R. 1406 would give employers and employees the option to agree to replace overtime...

Winter Fuels Outlook 2013-2014

The Energy Information Administration (EIA), in its Short-Term Energy and Winter Fuels Outlook (STEWFO) for the 2013-2014 winter heating season, projects that American consumers should expect to see heating expenditures that on average will be somewhat higher than last winter. Average expenditures for those heating with natural gas are projected to increase by 13.4%, while those heating with electricity are projected to see an increase in expenditures of about 2.1%. These two fuels serve as the heating source for about 89% of all U.S. household heating. Propane and home heating oil...

Tax-Advantaged Accounts for Health Care Expenses: Side-by-Side Comparison, 2013

Four types of tax-advantaged accounts can be used to pay for unreimbursed qualifying medical expenses: health care flexible spending accounts (FSAs), health reimbursement accounts (HRAs), health savings accounts (HSAs), and medical savings accounts (MSAs). Qualifying unreimbursed medical expenses are defined in the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) and typically include deductibles, copayments, and goods and/or services not covered by insurance. The goods and/or services can include medical services rendered by physicians, surgeons, dentists, and other medical practitioners. The costs of...

Pharmaceutical Supply Chain Security

The drug package that a community pharmacist hands to a patient, or a hospital pharmacist sends to a patient’s bedside, or a physician administers in the medical office has reached the end of a complicated path. That path is called a supply or distribution chain. The upstream portion of the chain includes the journey of each active and inactive ingredient and their chemical components to the manufacturer that creates the finished drug product. The downstream chain, which this report addresses, includes the repackagers, wholesale distributors, associated storage and transport companies,...

Oil and Natural Gas Industry Tax Issues in the FY2014 Budget Proposal

The Obama Administration, in the FY2014 budget proposal, seeks to eliminate a set of tax expenditures that benefit the oil and natural gas industries. Supporters of these tax provisions see them as comparable to those affecting other industries and supporting the production of domestic oil and natural gas resources. Opponents of the provisions see these tax expenditures as subsidies to a profitable industry the government can ill afford, and impediments to the development of clean energy alternatives.

The FY2014 budget proposal outlines a set of proposals, framed as the termination of tax...

Background on the Scheduled Reduction to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Benefits

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA; P.L. 111-5) included an across-the-board increase in benefits provided under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly the Food Stamp program), effective in April 2009. ARRA substantially raised maximum monthly benefits, by 13.6% in FY2009. For a one-person household, the added benefit was $24 a month; for two persons, $44 a month; for three persons (the most typical household), $63 a month; for four persons, $80 a month; and for larger households, higher amounts. As a result, average household SNAP benefits...

Chemical Regulation in the European Union (EU): Registration, Evaluation, and Authorization of Chemicals

On June 1, 2007, the European Union (EU) began to implement a new law governing chemicals in EU commerce: Registration, Evaluation, Authorization, and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH). It is intended to protect human health and the environment from hazardous chemicals while at the same time protecting the competitiveness of European industry. REACH evolved over eight years and reflects compromises reached among EU stakeholders. The final regulation reduces and coordinates EU regulatory requirements for chemicals new to the EU market and increases collection of such information for...

How FDA Approves Drugs and Regulates Their Safety and Effectiveness

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

Loss of Federal Pensions for Members of Congress Convicted of Certain Offenses

Members of Congress may forfeit or lose their congressional pensions upon conviction of certain federal crimes under two different provisions of federal law:

  1. Under the so-called “Hiss Act,” Members of Congress (and most other officers and employees of the federal government) will forfeit their entire federal employee retirement annuities if convicted of a federal crime that relates to espionage, treason, or several other national security offenses against the United States.

  2. In addition to the Hiss Act provisions, Congress enacted, as part of the Honest Leadership and Open Government...

The Framework for Foreign Workers’ Labor Protections Under Federal Law

One challenge of immigration law has been to balance the interests of the domestic workforce with employer interests in hiring foreign workers who are not already authorized to work in the United States while preventing the exploitation of foreign workers. There are three main sources of labor protections for foreign workers in the United States: (1) the conditions imposed on employers hiring foreign workers through the Department of Labor (DOL) labor certification/attestation and DHS petition process; (2) federal labor laws stipulating that employers adhere to certain requirements...

501(c)(3)s and Campaign Activity: Analysis Under Tax and Campaign Finance Laws

The political activities of Section 501(c)(3) organizations are often in the news, with allegations made that some groups engaged in impermissible activities. These groups are absolutely prohibited from participating in campaign activity under the Internal Revenue Code (IRC). On the other hand, they are permitted to engage in nonpartisan political activities (e.g., distributing voter guides and conducting get-out-the-vote drives) that do not support or oppose a candidate. Determining whether an activity violates the IRC prohibition depends on the facts and circumstances of each case, and...

SEC Climate Change Disclosure Guidance: An Overview and Congressional Concerns

Publicly traded companies are required to transparently disclose material business risks to investors through regular filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). On January 27, 2010, the SEC voted to publish Commission Guidance Regarding Disclosure Related to Climate Change (the Guidance), which clarifies how publicly traded corporations should apply existing SEC disclosure rules to certain mandatory financial filings with the SEC regarding the risk that climate change developments may have on their businesses. The Guidance has been controversial and prompted legislation in...

House Apportionment 2012: States Gaining, Losing, and on the Margin

On December 21, 2010, the Commerce Department released 2010 Census population figures and the resulting reapportionment of seats in the House of Representatives. The apportionment population of the 50 states in 2010 was 309,183,463, a figure 9.9% greater than in 2000. Just as in the 108th Congress, 12 seats shifted among 18 states in the 113th Congress as a result of the reapportionment. The next census data release was February 2011, when the Census Bureau provided states the small-area data necessary to re-draw congressional and state legislative districts in time for the 2012 elections....

Qualifying Industrial Zones (QIZs) in Jordan and Egypt: Background and Issues for Congress

Congress passed the Qualifying Industrial Zone (QIZ) program in 1996, as an amendment to the U.S.-Israel Free Trade Agreement (USIFTA) implementing legislation. This narrowly focused program provides duty-free access to the U.S. market for goods produced with certain levels of Israeli and Jordanian; Israeli and Egyptian; or Palestinian content. The purpose of the program was political (to further the Middle-East peace process) and economic (to support economic growth in the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) region). After the terrorist events of September 11, 2001, the Bush Administration,...

Financial Disclosure by Federal Officials and Publication of Disclosure Reports

High-level officials in all three branches of the federal government are required to publicly disclose detailed information concerning their financial holdings and transactions in income-producing property and assets, such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and real property, as well as information on income, gifts, and reimbursements from private non-governmental sources. Covered federal officials must disclose this information not only for themselves, but also must disclose much of the same required financial information with regard to their spouses and dependent children.

Public financial...

Selected Laws Governing the Broadcast of Professional Sporting Events

Professional sports are a multi-billion dollar industry in the United States. One of the biggest ways that professional sports organizations like the National Football League (NFL), National Hockey League (NHL), National Basketball Association (NBA), and Major League Baseball (MLB) generate revenue is through licensing the rights to telecast (or, more colloquially, broadcast) their games to the public. These broadcasts may occur on over-the-air broadcast stations or over cable or satellite systems, and, now, over the Internet.

The licensing rights for the telecast of professional sports...

Background on and Implementation of the Bevill and Bentsen Exclusions in the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act: EPA Authorities to Regulate “Special Wastes”

The federal program to manage hazardous waste was established in 1976 by the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). Under RCRA Subtitle C, Congress directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to promulgate standards applicable to persons who generate, transport, treat, store, or dispose of such waste. Under the program, federal waste handling requirements govern every phase of waste management, from its generation to its final disposition and beyond (“cradle to grave”).

The stringent Subtitle C standards apply only to waste identified as “hazardous” according to regulatory...

The MF Global Bankruptcy, Missing Customer Funds, and Proposals for Reform

On October 31, 2011, MF Global, a large brokerage firm registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as a broker-dealer and with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) as a futures commission merchant (FCM), filed for bankruptcy, marking the eighth-largest bankruptcy in U.S. history. Based on the subsequent investigation by the bankruptcy trustee, it appears that the firm failed as a result of a “run on the bank” by customers seeking withdrawals, combined with increased margin calls on the firm’s proprietary trading positions related to distressed European debt,...

Retaining and Preserving Federal Records in a Digital Environment: Background and Issues for Congress

All federal departments and agencies create federal records “in connection with the transaction of public business.” The Federal Records Act, as amended (44 U.S.C. Chapters 21, 29, 31, and 33), requires executive branch departments and agencies to collect, retain, and preserve federal records, which provide the Administration, Congress, and the public with a history of public-policy execution and its results.

Increasing use of e-mail, social media, and other electronic media has prompted a proliferation of record creation in the federal government. The variety of electronic platforms used...

An Examination of Student Loan Interest Rate Proposals in the 113th Congress

The interest rates that borrowers pay on federal student loans made through the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan program are specified in statutory language of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended. For the past two years, one type of loan—Direct Subsidized Loans—has been made with a fixed interest rate of 3.4%. Effective July 1, 2013, Direct Subsidized Loans began to be made with a fixed interest rate of 6.8%. Direct Unsubsidized Loans are currently being made with a fixed interest rate of 6.8% and Direct PLUS Loans are currently being made with a fixed interest rate of 7.9%.

In...

Singapore: Background and U.S. Relations

A former trading and military outpost of the British Empire, the tiny Republic of Singapore has transformed itself into a modern Asian nation and a major player in the global economy, though it still substantially restricts political freedoms in the name of maintaining social stability and economic growth. Singapore’s heavy dependence on international trade makes regional stability and the free flow of goods and services essential to its existence. As a result, the island nation is a firm supporter of both U.S. international trade policy and the U.S. security role in Asia, but also...

Agricultural Guest Workers: Legislative Activity in the 113th Congress

Foreign temporary workers, also known as guest workers, have long performed legal agricultural labor in the United States through different temporary worker programs. Today, agricultural guest workers may perform farm work of a temporary or seasonal nature through the H-2A visa program.

Bringing in H-2A workers is a multi-agency process involving the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the U.S. Department of State (DOS). As a first step, interested employers must apply to DOL for a certification that (1) there are not sufficient U.S. workers...

Earthquakes: Risk, Detection, Warning, and Research

Portions of all 50 states and the District of Columbia are vulnerable to earthquake hazards, although risks vary greatly across the country and within individual states. Seismic hazards are greatest in the western United States, particularly in California, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska and Hawaii. California has more citizens and infrastructure at risk than any other state because of the state’s frequent seismic activity combined with its large population and developed infrastructure.

The United States faces the possibility of large economic losses from earthquake-damaged buildings and...

Medicare Immunosuppressive Drug Coverage for Kidney Transplant Recipients

End-stage renal disease (ESRD) is substantial and permanent loss in kidney function. Persons with ESRD require either a regular course of dialysis treatment (a process that removes harmful waste products from an individual’s blood stream) or a kidney transplant to survive. The Medicare program provides coverage for health care services for the vast majority of individuals diagnosed with ESRD, regardless of age.

In 2010, roughly 489,000 Medicare beneficiaries received ESRD-related services—less than 1% of the total Medicare population. According to the United States Renal Data System...

Seminole Rock Deference: Court Treatment of Agency Interpretation of Ambiguous Regulations

Agencies promulgate rules to implement statutorily authorized regulatory programs. These rules, although established by an administrative agency, maintain the force and effect of law. To be able to promulgate rules, an agency must be granted by Congress the power to do so, either explicitly or implicitly, through statute. To control the process by which agencies create these rules, Congress has enacted statutes, such as the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), that dictate what procedures an agency must follow to establish a final, legally binding rule.

Often, the organic statute that...

Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS): A Primer

Carbon capture and sequestration (or storage)—known as CCS—has attracted congressional interest as a measure for mitigating global climate change because large amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted from fossil fuel use in the United States are potentially available to be captured and stored underground and prevented from reaching the atmosphere. Large, industrial sources of CO2, such as electricity-generating plants, are likely initial candidates for CCS because they are predominantly stationary, single-point sources. Electricity generation contributes over 40% of U.S. CO2 emissions from...

Wildfire Management: Hotshot Crews

Wildfires can be unpredictable, with the severity and direction of the wildfire changing in a matter of moments. To ensure the safety and protection of life and property, response to a wildfire requires an array of resources including air and ground support. This report briefly discusses the role of hotshot crews for wildfire management.

Hotshot crews are intensively trained fire crews that are generally placed in the most rugged terrain on the most active and difficult areas on wildfires. The primary mission of an Interagency Hotshot Crew (IHC) is to provide a safe, professional, mobile...

Child Welfare: FY2013 Budget Request of the President and FY2013 Funding

Child welfare services are intended to prevent the abuse or neglect of children; ensure that children have safe, permanent homes; and promote the well-being of children and their families. The largest amount of federal child welfare funding is provided to states for assistance to children who have been removed from their homes (due primarily to abuse or neglect). In the past decade, the share of this support provided for children who remain in foster care has been on the decline, while the share provided for those who leave foster care for permanent homes (primarily via adoption) has...

Leaving Congress: House of Representatives and Senate Departures Data Since 1989

Members of Congress leave the House or Senate for a variety of reasons; these may include resignation, death, or chamber action during a Congress, and retirement, electoral defeat, or pursuit of another office at the end of a Congress. In the 101st Congress (1989-1990) through 112th Congress (2011-2012), on average, two Senators and nine Members of the House of Representatives have left before the conclusion of a Congress. Over the same period, on average, 11 Senators and 61 Members of the House left Congress upon expiration of their terms of office. This report also provides data on those...

Comparing Medicaid and Exchanges: Benefits and Costs for Individuals and Families

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA, P.L. 111-148, as amended) expands health insurance coverage primarily through two mechanisms: by expanding the existing Medicaid program and by establishing new health insurance exchanges where certain individuals and businesses can purchase private health insurance. Under ACA, Medicaid and exchanges are envisioned to work in tandem, with the potential to provide a continuous source of subsidized coverage for lower-income individuals and families, beginning in 2014.

On June 28, 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision in National...

Vocational Rehabilitation Grants to States: Program Overview

This report provides an overview of the federal vocational rehabilitation (VR) grant program and the associated state programs.

Puerto Rico’s Political Status and the 2012 Plebiscite: Background and Key Questions

For the first time since 1998, voters in Puerto Rico went to the polls in November 2012 to reconsider the island’s relationship with the federal government (a concept known as “political status”). Voters were asked to answer two questions: (1) whether they wished to maintain Puerto Rico’s current political status; and (2) regardless of the choice in the first question, whether they preferred statehood, independence, or to be a “sovereign free associated state.” According to results certified by the Puerto Rico State Elections Commission, approximately 54.0% of those who cast ballots...

Independent Counsels, Special Prosecutors, Special Counsels, and the Role of Congress

This report provides information on the procedure for the appointment of an “independent counsel,” a “special prosecutor,” or a “special counsel” to investigate and prosecute potential or possible violations of federal criminal law by officials in the executive branch of the federal government and in federal agencies. Specifically examined is the role or authority of Congress in requiring an independent or special counsel investigation of executive branch officials.

Under the Constitution and its separation of powers principles and structure, Congress has no direct role in federal law...

The Chained Consumer Price Index: What Is It and Would It Be Appropriate for Cost-of-Living Adjustments?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) publishes two important measures of inflation: the Consumer Price Index for all Urban Consumers (CPI-U) and the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W). (Hereinafter in this report, the CPI-W and CPI-U will be referred to collectively as the standard CPI.) The standard CPI might seem like just another economic indicator, but it is a powerful policy lever. Because the CPI-W is used to calculate annual cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) to Social Security retirement benefits and the CPI-U is used to calculate annual...

Inland Waterways: Financing and Management Options in Federal Studies

barge, inland waterways, locks, army corps of engineers, rivers, freight, cargo, shippers, navigation, waterways, intracoastal, intercoastal, tow, towboat, tug, tugboat, maritime, marine, waterborne, shipping, channels, ports, vessels, infrastructure, transportation, dams

Health Insurance Exchanges Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA)

The fundamental purpose of a health insurance exchange is to provide a structured marketplace for the sale and purchase of health insurance. The authority and responsibilities of an exchange may vary, depending on statutory or other requirements for its establishment and structure. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA, P.L. 111-148, as amended) requires health insurance exchanges to be established in every state by January 1, 2014. ACA provides certain requirements for the establishment of exchanges, while leaving other choices to be made by the states.

Qualified...

The Federal Railroad Administration’s Train Horn Rule

Numerous communities across the United States imposed bans on the sounding of train whistles at highway-rail grade crossings beginning in the late 1970s to address complaints and concerns of nearby residents about noise from train whistles. In 1990, a Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) study of train whistle bans in Florida showed a positive correlation between nighttime whistle bans and the number of accidents at highway-rail crossings. In 1994, partially in response to the FRA study, Congress enacted the Swift Rail Development Act (P.L. 103-440), which directed FRA to issue a...

Federal Oversight and State Cooperation in the Chesapeake Bay

As an increasing number of communities in the United States face significant flooding, droughts, and degradation of water quality, interest in the management of interstate water basins has heightened. Interstate water management requires a number of interests to be balanced, including different priorities among states affected by the particular water basin, federal interests in federal water projects, and private interest groups who may be affected by regulation of the basin. Because of these competing interests, interstate water management often becomes controversial and may lead to...

The Pigford Cases: USDA Settlement of Discrimination Suits by Black Farmers

On April 14, 1999, Judge Paul L. Friedman of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia approved a settlement agreement and consent decree in Pigford v. Glickman, a class action discrimination suit between the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and black farmers. The suit claimed that the agency had discriminated against black farmers on the basis of race and failed to investigate or properly respond to complaints from 1983 to 1997. The deadline for submitting a claim as a class member was September 12, 2000. Cumulative data show that as of December 31, 2011, 15,645 (69%) of...

The U.S. Postal Service: Common Questions About Post Office Closures

In 2009 and 2011, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) announced initiatives to close post offices. Approximately 4,380 retail facilities in rural, suburban, and urban areas could have been closed. In May 2012, the agency apparently changed course. The USPS issued a plan to “preserve” rural post offices; rather than closing these facilities, the USPS would reduce their operating hours. The agency did not, however, state whether it would continue to shutter post offices in non-rural areas, nor did it provide an estimate of how many post offices it needs to serve the public. Thus, how many post...

Spectrum Policy in the Age of Broadband: Issues for Congress

The convergence of wireless telecommunications technology with the Internet Protocol (IP) is fostering new generations of mobile technologies. This transformation has created new demands for advanced communications infrastructure and radio frequency spectrum capacity that can support high-speed, content-rich uses. Furthermore, a number of services, in addition to consumer and business communications, rely at least in part on wireless links to broadband (high-speed/high-capacity) infrastructure such as the Internet and IP-enabled networks. Policies to provide additional spectrum for mobile...

501(c)(4)s and Campaign Activity: Analysis Under Tax and Campaign Finance Laws

The campaign activities of tax-exempt 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations continue to receive considerable attention. These groups operate with less restriction after the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC, which invalidated long-standing prohibitions in the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) on corporations and labor unions using their general treasury funds to make independent expenditures and electioneering communications. However, even after Citizens United, 501(c)(4) groups are still subject to regulation under FECA and the Internal Revenue Code (IRC).

Under...

Proposed Cuts to Air Traffic Control Towers Under Budget Sequestration: Background and Considerations for Congress

Budgetary flexibility enacted under the Reducing Flight Delays Act of 2013 (P.L. 113-9) has permitted the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to cancel plans to close 149 air traffic control towers operated by contractors, a measure it had proposed to address funding decreases brought about by the budget sequester. On March 22, 2013, FAA announced the planned tower closures. The closures were originally planned for April 2013, but the closure was pushed back to June 2013 and then abandoned due to receipt of new authority in P.L. 113-9 allowing funds to be transferred from other FAA...

State and Local Restrictions on Employing Unauthorized Aliens

In May 2011, the Supreme Court ruled in Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America v. Whiting that federal immigration law did not preempt an Arizona statute that authorized or required the suspension or termination of the licenses of businesses that knowingly or intentionally hire unauthorized aliens, and also required that employers within Arizona use the federal government’s E-Verify database to check employees’ work authorization.

The doctrine of preemption derives from the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which establishes that federal law, treaties, and the...

Committee of the Whole: An Introduction

The Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union, more often referred to as the “Committee of the Whole,” is the House of Representatives operating as a committee on which every Member of the House serves. The House of Representatives uses this parliamentary device to take procedural advantage of a somewhat different set of rules governing proceedings in the Committee than those governing proceedings in the House. The purpose is to expedite legislative consideration.

This report briefly reviews the history of the Committee of the Whole, describes the current procedure associated...

Search and Seizure Cases in the October 2012 Term of the Supreme Court

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. U.S. Const. Amend. IV.

This term, the Supreme Court decided that (1) deploying a drug-detecting dog at the front door of a house qualifies as a Fourth Amendment search (Florida v. Jardines); (2) the positive reaction of a trained, drug-detecting dog constitutes...

U.S. v. Windsor, Hollingsworth v. Perry, Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act: Same-Sex Marriage Legislation and Litigation Resources

On September 10, 1996, the Senate passed H.R. 3396, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which had been cleared on July 12 by the House. On September 21, 1996, President Clinton signed DOMA and it became P.L. 104-199.

On November 4, 2008, California citizens passed Proposition 8, which added new Section 7.5 to Article I of the California Constitution that reads “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”

Petitions of certiorari have been granted by the United States Supreme Court in two cases resulting from these events.

This report contains resources...

Sequestration at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA): Air Traffic Controller Furloughs and Congressional Response

In response to across-the-board funding reductions in federal programs through the budget sequestration process implemented in FY2013, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) began to furlough personnel, including air traffic controllers, on April 21, 2013. In conjunction with air traffic controller furloughs, FAA implemented various air traffic management initiatives to mitigate impacts of the reduced staffing on controller workload. This resulted in some delays affecting about 3%-4% of flights, with some acute delay impacts occurring in congested airspace, particularly in the New York...

Covered Bonds: Background and Policy Issues

Covered bonds are a relatively common method of funding mortgages in Europe, but uncommon in the United States. A covered bond is a recourse debt obligation that is secured by a pool of assets, often mortgages. The holders of the bond are given additional protection in the event of bankruptcy or insolvency of the issuing lender. Covered bonds have some features, such as pooled mortgages, that resemble securitization, but the original lenders maintain a continuing interest in the performance of the loans. Because some believe that the subprime mortgage turmoil may have been influenced by...

Inflation-Indexing Elements in Federal Entitlement Programs

In recent years, various proposals have been discussed in the context of ways to reduce federal budget deficits. One of these proposals calls for the use of a different measure of consumer price change to index various provisions of federal programs, including cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs). For example, under current law, the Social Security COLA is based on the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W). Under the proposal, the Social Security COLA would be based instead on the Chained Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (Chained CPI-U or...

Traditional Versus Benchmark Benefits Under Medicaid

The Medicaid program, which served 72 million people in FY2012, finances the delivery of a wide variety of preventive, primary, and acute care services as well as long-term services and supports for certain low-income populations. Benefits are available to beneficiaries through two avenues. First, the traditional Medicaid program covers a wide variety of mandatory services (e.g., inpatient hospital services, lab/x-ray services, physician care, nursing facility care for persons aged 21 and over), and other services at state option (e.g., prescribed drugs, physician-directed clinic services,...

Common Questions About Postage and Stamps

Constituents and interest groups often approach congressional offices with questions about postage and stamps. This report provides brief answers to commonly asked questions and provides sources where Members and congressional staff may learn more about these topics.

The Senate usually has not had rules or policies regarding legislation to establish postage stamps. The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform long has had a rule against considering legislation that proposes the issuance of new semipostal and commemorative stamps.

Congressional or Federal Charters: Overview and Enduring Issues

A congressional or federal charter is a federal statute that establishes a corporation. Congress has issued charters since 1791, although most charters were issued after the start of the 20th century. Congress has used charters to create a variety of corporate entities, such as banks, government-sponsored enterprises, commercial corporations, venture capital funds, and quasi governmental entities. Congressionally chartered corporations have raised diverse issues for Congress, including (1) Title 36 corporations’ membership practices; (2) prohibitions on Title 36 corporations engaging in...

The STOCK Act, Insider Trading, and Public Financial Reporting by Federal Officials

The STOCK Act (Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act of 2012) was signed into law on April 4, 2012. It affirms and makes explicit the fact that there is no exemption from the “insider trading” laws and regulations for Members of Congress, congressional employees, or any federal officials. The law also expressly affirms that all federal officials have a “duty” of trust and confidentiality with respect to nonpublic, material information which they may receive in the course of their official duties, and a duty not to use such information to make a private profit.

The STOCK Act, as part...

“Gang of Four” Congressional Intelligence Notifications

“Gang of Four” intelligence notifications generally are oral briefings of certain particularly sensitive non-covert action intelligence activities, including principally, but not exclusively, intelligence collection programs that the intelligence community typically limits to the chairmen and ranking Members of the two congressional intelligence committees.

Gang of Four notifications are not based in statute but have constituted a practice generally accepted by the leadership of the intelligence committees, and that is employed when the intelligence community believes a particular...

Ensuring That Traffic Signs Are Visible at Night: Federal Regulations

Traffic signs provide information to help motorists travel safely. If a sign is useful during daytime, it has equal or greater value to motorists at night, when less of the road environment can be seen. Federal regulations have long required that traffic signs be visible at night, either through the use of retroreflective materials (materials that reflect light, such as from headlights, back in the direction from which it came) or through permanent lighting illuminating the sign. These regulations are part of the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), a compilation of federal...

Regulation of Broadcast Indecency: Background and Legal Analysis

During the 2012 Super Bowl Halftime Show, the rapper M.I.A. (stage name for the artist Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasm) made an indecent gesture during her live performance, reigniting the debate over whether the FCC could punish broadcasters for fleeting indecency. M.I.A.’s performance echoed two other prominent television events that have been the subject of ongoing litigation. The airing of an expletive by Bono (stage name for the artist Paul David Hewson) during the 2003 Golden Globe Awards, as well as the “wardrobe malfunction” that occurred during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show, gave...

Air Quality Issues in Natural Gas Systems

Natural Gas Systems and Air Pollution

Congressional interest in U.S. energy policy has focused in part on ways through which the United States could secure more economical and reliable fossil fuel resources both domestically and internationally. Recent expansion in natural gas production, primarily as a result of new or improved technologies (e.g., hydraulic fracturing, directional drilling) used on unconventional resources (e.g., shale, tight sands, and coal-bed methane), has made natural gas an increasingly significant component in the U.S. energy supply. This expansion, however, has...

“Hollowing Out” in U.S. Manufacturing: Analysis and Issues for Congress

The health of the U.S. manufacturing sector has been a long-standing concern of Congress. Although Congress has established a wide variety of tax preferences, direct subsidies, import restraints, and other federal programs with the goal of retaining or recapturing manufacturing jobs, only a small proportion of U.S. workers is now employed in factories. Meanwhile, U.S. factories have stepped up production of goods that require high technological sophistication but relatively little direct labor. Labor productivity in manufacturing, as measured by government data, has grown rapidly,...

How Legislation Is Brought to the House Floor: A Snapshot of Parliamentary Practice in the 112th Congress (2011-2012)

House of Representatives has several different parliamentary procedures through which it can bring legislation to the chamber floor. Which of these will be used in a given situation depends on many factors, including the type of measure being considered, its cost, the amount of political or policy controversy surrounding it, and the degree to which Members want to debate it and propose amendments. This report provides a snapshot of the forms and origins of measures that, according to the Legislative Information System of the U.S. Congress (LIS), received action on the House floor in the...

Federal Authority to Regulate the Compounding of Human Drugs

This report will examine the FDA's regulation of drug compounding and will discuss relevant legal authorities. The report will conclude by discussing potential limits to the FDA's authority to regulate human drug compounding.

Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)

The recent fiscal crisis and recession have accentuated debt collection issues, prompted federal regulatory and enforcement activities regarding the debt collection industry, and motivated assessments of the effectiveness of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (Bureau or CFPB) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the two main agencies charged with regulating and/or enforcing the FDCPA, have identified debt buying, the use of litigation as a collection strategy, and the impact of current technology on the debt collection industry as...

Broadband Deployment: Legal Issues for the Siting of Wireless Communications Facilities and Amendments to the Pole Attachment Rule

One of the primary tasks of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is to encourage the deployment of broadband throughout the United States. Broadband technology is now available over a wide array of delivery systems including cable, wireless, telephone, and fiber optic networks. The FCC moved, in recent years, to ease some of the regulatory burdens inherent in erecting new broadband facilities within the current legal framework. Congress has also taken steps to encourage the deployment of wireless facilities. This report will discuss some of the important legal developments related...

Abortion and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Affordable Care Act”) includes provisions that address the coverage of abortion services by qualified health plans that will be available through health benefit exchanges beginning in 2014. These provisions have been controversial, particularly with regard to the use of premium tax credits or cost-sharing subsidies to obtain health coverage that includes coverage for elective, non-therapeutic abortion services. The Affordable Care Act addresses abortion coverage by the exchange plans with reference to the so-called “Hyde Amendment,” which...

Sensitive Covert Action Notifications: Oversight Options for Congress

Legislation enacted in 1980 gave the executive branch authority to limit advance notification of especially sensitive covert actions to eight Members of Congress—the “Gang of Eight”—when the President determines that it is essential to limit prior notice in order to meet extraordinary circumstances affecting U.S. vital interests. In such cases, the executive branch is permitted by statute to limit notification to the chairmen and ranking minority Members of the two congressional intelligence committees, the Speaker and minority leader of the House, and Senate majority and minority leaders,...

Hugo Chávez’s Death: Implications for Venezuela and U.S. Relations

T

he death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez on March 5, 2013, after 14 years of populist rule, has implications not only for Venezuela’s political future, but potentially for the future of U.S.-Venezuelan relations. This report provides a brief discussion of those implications. For additional background on President Chávez’s rule and U.S. policy, see CRS Report R40938, Venezuela: Issues for Congress, by Mark P. Sullivan.

Congress has had a strong interest in Venezuela and U.S. relations with Venezuela under the Chávez government. Among the concerns of U.S. policymakers has been the...

Foreign Ownership of U.S. Financial Assets: Implications of a Withdrawal

This report provides an overview of the role foreign investment plays in the U.S. economy and an assessment of possible actions a foreign investor or a group of foreign investors might choose to take to liquidate their investments in the United States. Concerns over the potential impact of disinvestment have grown as national governments have become more active investors in the U.S. economy and as innovation in creating financial instruments has increased volatility in financial markets. Such concerns seem out of step with the experience of the 2008-2009 financial crisis, during which the...

The Berne Union: An Overview

The Berne Union, or the International Union of Credit and Investment Insurers, is an international organization comprised of more than 70 public and private sector members that represent both public and private segments of the export credit and investment insurance industry. Members range from highly developed economies to emerging markets, from diverse geographical locations, and from a spectrum of viewpoints about approaches to export credit financing and investment insurance. Within the Berne Union, the United States is represented by the U.S. Export-Import Bank (Eximbank) and the...

FEMA Disaster Cost-Shares: Evolution and Analysis

The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (The Stafford Act, P.L. 93-288) includes the Public Assistance (PA) program, Sections 406 and 407 of the act. These sections provide assistance to states, local governments and non-profit organizations for debris removal and rebuilding of the public and non-profit infrastructure. The Stafford Act is a partnership between the federal and state governments and part of the partnership is the notion that state and local governments should have some “skin in the game.” That is, they should contribute toward some of the costs...

Second Amendment Challenges to Firearms Regulations Post-Heller

The U.S. Supreme Court in District of Columbia v. Heller held that the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects an individual right to possess a firearm, unconnected with service in a militia, and the use of that firearm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home. It also held that the Second Amendment applies to the states in McDonald v. City of Chicago. Since then, federal and state firearms laws have been challenged under the Second Amendment. Lower courts have been disputed in determining how to evaluate these provisions, given that the Heller...

Unemployment Compensation (UC): Eligibility for Students Under State and Federal Laws

The recent economic recession and subsequent recovery period has produced one of the most challenging labor markets in recent decades. Many workers lost their jobs during this time period, as others were just entering the market for the first time. As a strategy to cope with the difficult employment situation, many individuals entered school to acquire skills to become more competitive, while others never left, remaining in school to postpone the employment search. However, due to the prolonged nature of the recovery, many students and workers remain jobless and struggle to find work....

Overview of Health Care Changes in the FY2014 Budget Proposal Offered by House Budget Committee Chairman Ryan

On March 12, 2013, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan released the chairman’s mark of the FY2014 House budget resolution together with his report entitled The Path to Prosperity: A Responsible Balanced Budget, which outlines his budgetary objectives. The House Budget Committee considered and amended the chairman’s mark on March 13, 2013, and voted to report the budget resolution to the full House. H.Con.Res. 25 was introduced in the House March 15, 2013, and was accompanied by the committee report (H.Rept. 113-17). H.Con.Res. 25 was agreed to by the House on March 21, 2013.

A...

Social Networking and Constituent Communications: Members’ Use of Twitter and Facebook During a Two-Month Period in the 112th Congress

Communication between Members of Congress and their constituents has changed with the development of new online social networking services. Many Members now use e-mail, official websites, blogs, YouTube channels, Twitter, and Facebook pages to communicate with their constituents—technologies that were either non-existent or not widely available 20 years ago.

Social networking services have arguably served to enhance the ability of Members of Congress to fulfill their representational duties by providing greater opportunities for communication between the Member and individual constituents....

Administrative Agencies and Claims of Unreasonable Delay: Analysis of Court Treatment

One common concern about federal agencies is the speed with which they are able to issue and implement regulations. Federal regulatory schemes can be quite complex, and establishing rules and completing adjudications can sometimes require substantial agency resources and significant amounts of time. However, critics point out that sometimes an agency can simply take too long to a complete task. Commentators and courts have noted that such agency delay can impact the effectiveness of a regulatory scheme. It can also impact regulated entities that must wait for final agency action. In some...

The National Broadband Plan Goals: Where Do We Stand?

On March 16, 2010, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released Connecting America: The National Broadband Plan. The National Broadband Plan (NBP) identified significant gaps in broadband availability and adoption in the United States, and in order to address those gaps and other challenges, the NBP set specific goals to be achieved by the year 2020. Goals were set for next generation broadband service; universal broadband service; mobile wireless broadband innovation and coverage; broadband access of Community Anchor Institutions; a nationwide, wireless, interoperable broadband...

Guns, Excise Taxes, and Wildlife Restoration

A federal excise tax on the manufacture, production, importation, and sale of firearms, shells, and cartridges, as well as archery equipment, provides funds for matching grants to states and territories for wildlife conservation, hunter education, and public shooting ranges. The program is called the Wildlife Restoration Fund, or Pittman-Robertson (P-R). The tax does not distinguish between equipment that is commonly used in hunting versus equipment that is rarely suitable for such use. The program has mandatory spending authority to the extent of receipts, and funds are distributed on a...

The National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for Particulate Matter (PM): EPA’s 2006 Revisions and Associated Issues

On October 17, 2006, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published its final revisions to the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for particulate matter (particulates, or PM). Several states and industry, agriculture, business, and environmental and public health advocacy groups petitioned the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, challenging certain aspects of EPA’s revisions. A February 24, 2009, decision by the D.C. Circuit granted the petitions in part, denying other challenges, and remanded the standards to EPA for further consideration but did...

Tax Issues Relating to Charitable Contributions and Organizations

Prior to the financial crises and subsequent recession, the value of tax benefits for charitable contributions and organizations was estimated to be around $100 billion per year. About half of this cost arose from the deductions for charitable contributions with the other half from exemptions of earnings of nonprofits. In 2010, the deduction for charitable contributions resulted in an estimated $40 billion in federal revenue losses. On average, endowment investments in 2009 experienced losses, meaning that the federal government did not lose revenues from exempting asset returns from...

Hydraulic Fracturing: Chemical Disclosure Requirements

Hydraulic fracturing is a technique used to free oil and natural gas trapped underground in low-permeability rock formations by injecting a fluid under high pressure in order to crack the formations. The composition of a fracturing fluid varies with the nature of the formation, but typically contains mostly water; a proppant to keep the fractures open, such as sand; and a small percentage of chemical additives. Some of these additives may be hazardous to health and the environment.

The Shale Gas Production Subcommittee of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board has recommended public...

Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA): 2012 Reauthorization as PDUFA V

Title I of the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act (FDASIA, P.L. 112-144) reauthorized the Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA) through September 30, 2017. Known as PDUFA V, this was the program’s fourth five-year reauthorization. The Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA), in 1992, gave the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to collect fees from the pharmaceutical industry and to use the revenue to support “the process for the review of human drug applications.”

PDUFA fees provided 52% of the Human Drugs Program funding for FY2012, accounting for more...

Garcia v. Vilsack: A Policy and Legal Analysis of a USDA Discrimination Case

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has long been accused of unlawfully discriminating against minority and female farmers in the management of its various programs, particularly in its Farm Service Agency loan programs. While USDA has taken concrete steps to address these allegations of discrimination, the results of these efforts have been criticized by some. Meanwhile, some minority and female farmers who have alleged discrimination by USDA have filed various lawsuits under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). Pigford v. Glickman,...

Genetically Engineered Fish and Seafood: Environmental Concerns

In the process of congressional oversight of executive agency regulatory action, concerns have been raised about the adequacy of the FDA’s review of a genetically modified (GM) salmon. More specifically, concern has focused on whether and how potential environmental issues related to this GM salmon might be addressed. In response to these concerns, several bills were introduced in the 112th Congress seeking to declare GM fish unsafe and thus prevent FDA approval of this salmon for human consumption or to require that GM fish be specifically labeled. No final action was taken on these bills...

2006 National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for Fine Particulate Matter (PM2.5): Designating Nonattainment Areas

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published revisions to the Clean Air Act (CAA) National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for particulate matter (particulates, or PM) on October 17, 2006. EPA’s actions leading up to and following promulgation of the 2006 standard have been the subject of considerable congressional oversight. EPA and states’ ongoing implementation of the standard, beginning with the designation of those geographical areas not in compliance, likewise has been an area of concern and debate among some Members of Congress, states, and other stakeholders for some...

Comparing G-20 Reform of the Over-the-Counter Derivatives Markets

Derivatives, or financial instruments whose value is based on an underlying asset, played a key role in the financial crisis of 2008-2009. Congress directly addressed the governance of the derivatives markets through the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank; P.L. 111-203; July 21, 2010). This act, in Title VII, sought to bring the largely unregulated over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives markets under greater regulatory control and scrutiny. Pillars of this approach included mandating that certain OTC derivatives be subject to central clearing, such as through...

Exemptions for Firearms in Bankruptcy

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions regarding the nature of the people’s right to “keep and bear arms,” as guaranteed in the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, has focused some interest on the extent to which firearms are protected from the reach of creditors under either federal or state laws. State laws protecting certain property from creditors’ claims may be used both in and outside of the bankruptcy context. Federal law may also protect certain property from creditors’ claims in bankruptcy.

Although a number of states have provisions explicitly shielding firearms from the...

Federal Assault Weapons Ban: Legal Issues

In the 113th Congress, there has been renewed congressional interest in gun control legislation. On January 16, 2013, President Obama announced his support for legislation on gun control, including a ban on certain semiautomatic assault firearms and large capacity ammunition feeding devices. Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced S. 150, the Assault Weapons Ban of 2013, which would prohibit, subject to certain exceptions, the sale, transfer, possession, manufacturing, and importation of specifically named firearms and other firearms that have certain features, as well as the transfer and...

Veterans’ Benefits: Current Life Insurance Programs

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) administers and supervises several life insurance programs for active servicemembers and veterans. The VA supervises the Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) and Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI) programs, which are administered by the Office of Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (OSGLI), a division of Prudential Insurance Company of America. The Service-Disabled Veterans’ Insurance (S-DVI) program, on the other hand, is administered entirely by the VA. Access to VA-administered life insurance programs gives servicemembers and veterans,...

Secretary of the Senate: Legislative and Administrative Duties

The Secretary of the Senate is an officer of the Senate elected at the beginning of each Congress by the membership of the Senate. The Secretary has financial, administrative, and legislative responsibilities derived from law, Senate rules, and other sources. In addition, the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration maintains oversight authority over the Secretary of the Senate and issues policies and regulations governing the Secretary’s duties and responsibilities. The Secretary of the Senate was established during the First Congress (1789-1791), when Samuel Allyne Otis was elected...

Health Benefits for Members of Congress

This report covers health benefits made available to Members of Congress through federal government employment, including Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP), dental and vision insurance, flexible spending accounts, long-term care insurance, services at the Office of the Attending Physician and military hospitals, and Medicare. It also offers a comparison of FEHBP to health benefits offered by the private sector and state and local governments and a discussion of the effect of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on Members' health benefits.

Belarus: Background and U.S. Policy Concerns

Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko snuffed out Belarus’s modest progress toward democracy and a free market economy in the early 1990s and created an authoritarian, Soviet-style regime. Belarus has close historical and cultural ties to Russia. Russian policy toward Belarus appears to be focused on gaining control of Belarus’s key economic assets while reducing the costs of subsidizing the Lukashenko regime.

For many years, the United States has limited ties to the regime while providing modest support to pro-democracy organizations in Belarus. The United States and the European...

An Overview of the Tax Provisions in the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012

On December 31, 2012, a variety of temporary tax provisions that were part of the “fiscal cliff” expired. Two days later, the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (ATRA; P.L. 112-240) retroactively extended, and in certain cases modified, many of these provisions. The short time period between the expiration of these provisions and the enactment on January 2 of ATRA retroactively meant that from the perspective of all but upper-income taxpayers, income taxes remained unchanged between 2012 and 2013 (i.e., the amount of income tax withheld from their paycheck and the availability of certain...

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC): Changes for 2012 and 2013

The earned income tax credit (EITC), established in the tax code in 1975, provides cash assistance to lower income working parents and individuals through the tax system. The EITC will be higher in 2012 and 2013 than it was in 2011. An increase in the size of the EITC will occur because the maximum amount of earned income used to calculate the credit and the phase-out income level are indexed for inflation. The increases reflect the inflation adjustment.

For tax year 2012, the maximum EITC for tax filers without children was $475, and it will increase to $487 in 2013. For families with one...

Provisions of Special Rules in the House: An Example of a Typical Open Rule

This report includes a typical example of a simple open rule that the House Committee on Rules may report to govern House floor action on a bill that is not otherwise privileged for consideration. This resolution has been divided into five parts.

EPA’s Boiler MACT: Controlling Emissions of Hazardous Air Pollutants

On December 20, 2012, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson signed final revisions to EPA’s 2011 Maximum Achievable Control Technology standards for boilers (the “Boiler MACT”). The Boiler MACT has been among the most controversial EPA regulations over the last three years, because of its wide reach and potential economic impact. Boilers are widely used for heat and power throughout industry, and by large commercial establishments and institutions, as well. EPA found it difficult to adequately characterize and develop emissions data for the many types of boilers, leading many in the regulated...

Civilian Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act: Federal Contractor Criminal Liability Overseas

The United States government uses hundreds of thousands of civilian contractors and employees overseas. They and their dependants are often subject to local prosecution for the crimes they commit abroad. Whether by agreement, practice, or circumstance—sometimes they are not. The Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (MEJA) permits federal prosecution of certain crimes committed abroad by Defense Department civilian employees, contractors, or their dependants. The Civilian Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (CEJA; H.R. 2136) (Representative Price of North Carolina) and S. 1145 (Senator...

Department of Defense Food Procurement: Background and Status

Military food items, also known as subsistence items, are generally procured under the auspices of the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), an agency of the Department of Defense (DOD) which provides worldwide logistics support for the U.S. military services. Under DLA, DLA Troop Services (formerly the Defense Supply Center Philadelphia) is the inventory control point for food, clothing, textiles, medicines, medical equipment, general and industrial supplies, and services for the military, their eligible dependents, and other non-DOD customers worldwide. DLA Troop Services buys and manages...

The Randolph-Sheppard Act

Department of Education Final Rules for Postsecondary Education Programs That Prepare Students for Gainful Employment in a Recognized Occupation

Some types of postsecondary education programs at institutions of higher education that are eligible for participation in the federal student aid programs authorized under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended (HEA), face additional conditions for Title IV aid eligibility. These programs, which are offered by public and private not-for-profit institutions of higher education and postsecondary vocational institutions, and by for-profit proprietary institutions of higher education, must prepare students for gainful employment in recognized occupations.

For many years, the...

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC): Legislative Issues

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC or EIC) began in 1975 as a temporary program to return a portion of the Social Security taxes paid by lower-income taxpayers, and was made permanent in 1978. In the 1990s, the program was transformed into a major component of federal efforts to reduce poverty, and is now the largest anti-poverty entitlement program. Tax year 2009 data show a total EITC amount of $59.7 billion for 27.2 million tax returns, yielding an average tax credit of $2,195. Most of the EITC (87.1%) was received as a refund (EITC exceeded tax liability) by low-income workers.

The...

House Sergeant at Arms: Legislative and Administrative Duties

The Sergeant at Arms is an elected officer of the House of Representatives, nominated at the beginning of each Congress by the House majority leadership, and elected by the House membership. The Sergeant at Arms has law enforcement, protocol, and administrative responsibilities within the House.

“First Day” Proceedings and Procedural Change in the Senate

In the early weeks of the 112th Congress, the Senate considered proposals to change its Standing Rules, as well as proposals to alter other practices and procedures. Three resolutions that proposed to amend the Senate rules (S.Res. 8, S.Res. 10, as amended, and S.Res. 21, as amended) received votes, but none were agreed to. These three resolutions proposed a variety of changes, chiefly focused on the operation of the Senate’s cloture rule (Rule XXII). However, the Senate did agree to two proposals to establish new Senate standing orders (S.Res. 28 and S.Res. 29). S.Res. 28 established new...

The Alternative Minimum Tax for Individuals

Over time, the individual income tax has been used as a vehicle to promote various social and economic goals. This has been accomplished by according preferential tax treatment to certain items of income and expense. The net result, however, has been that by taking advantage of the preferences and incentives in the tax code, some individuals can substantially reduce their income taxes.

Congress, in 1969, enacted the predecessor to the current individual alternative minimum tax (AMT) to make sure that everyone paid at least a minimum of taxes and still preserve the economic and social...

Preventing Gun Violence While Protecting Gun Rights: CRS Experts

This report provides a table with names and contact information of CRS experts on policy issues related to preventing gun violence while protecting gun violence.

Patent Infringement and Experimental Use Under the Hatch-Waxman Act: Current Issues

Concerns over the availability of affordable health care have focused national attention upon patents and other intellectual property rights awarded to pharmaceutical firms. Legislation that was introduced before, but not enacted by, the 112th Congress proposed amendments to the Hatch-Waxman Act, legislation dating from 1984 that governs intellectual property rights in pharmaceuticals and other regulated products. Recent rulings from the federal judiciary regarding the Hatch-Waxman Act may be pertinent to future congressional consideration of that statute. Both the judicial holdings, as...

Lead-Based Paint Poisoning Prevention: Summary of Federal Mandates and Financial Assistance for Reducing Hazards in Housing

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 1.4% of surveyed children living in the United States between the ages of 1 and 5 years have an unacceptably high level of lead in their blood (i.e., 10 micrograms or more of lead per deciliter of blood), which may result in learning disabilities, reduced intellectual ability, or other problems. Poor children are at special risk because elevated blood-lead levels are more prevalent among children from families with lower incomes, and inadequate nutrition can increase lead absorption by the body. Many sources of lead...

Authorized Generic Pharmaceuticals: Effects on Innovation

The practice of “authorized generics” has recently been the subject of considerable attention by the pharmaceutical industry, regulators, and members of Congress alike. An “authorized generic” (sometimes termed a “branded,” “flanking,” or “pseudo” generic) is a pharmaceutical that is marketed by or on behalf of a brand-name drug company, but is sold under a generic name. Although the availability of an additional competitor in the generic drug market would appear to be favorable to consumers, authorized generics have nonetheless proven controversial. Some observers believe that authorized...

United Nations Regular Budget Contributions: Members Compared, 1990-2010

The United States is the single largest contributor to the United Nations (U.N.) regular budget. As such, Members of the 113th Congress will likely continue to demonstrate an interest in the United States’ assessment level, the cost of the U.S. assessment each year, how U.S. contributions to the regular budget compare to those of other countries, and how assessment levels have changed over time.

This report provides the assessment level, actual payment, and total outstanding contributions for the United States and other selected U.N. member states from 1990 to 2010—the last year for which...

Commercial Fishery Disaster Assistance

Disaster relief may be provided by the federal government to assist the fishing industry when it is affected by a commercial fishery failure. A commercial fishery failure can be declared when fishermen endure economic hardships resulting from fish population declines or other disruptions to the fishery. The Department of Commerce can provide disaster assistance under Sections 308(b) and 308(d) of the Interjurisdictional Fisheries Act (16 U.S.C. §4107), as amended, and Sections 312(a) and 315 of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (16 U.S.C §§1861a and 1864). The...

Proposals to Reduce Federal Medicaid Expenditures

Medicaid is a means-tested entitlement program that finances the delivery of primary and acute medical services as well as long-term services and supports (LTSS). Medicaid is jointly financed by both the federal government and the states. The federal government’s share for most Medicaid expenditures is called the federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP), and under the FMAP, the federal government pays a larger portion of Medicaid costs in states with lower per capita incomes relative to the national average (and vice versa for states with higher per capita incomes).

Federal Medicaid...

Extending the Temporary Payroll Tax Reduction: A Brief Description and Economic Analysis

Social Security is financed by payroll taxes, which are paid by covered workers and their employers. In the absence of a payroll tax reduction, employees and employers would each pay 6.2% of covered earnings, up to an annual limit, whereas self-employed individuals would pay 12.4% of net self-employment income, up to an annual limit.

In an effort to stimulate the economy, Congress, in December 2010, temporarily reduced the employee and self-employed shares by two points (to 4.2% for employees and 10.4% for the self-employed), with the Social Security trust funds “made whole” by a transfer...

The Presidential Inauguration: Basic Facts and Information

On January 20, 2013, President Barack Obama is to be sworn in for his second term. Because January 20 is on a Sunday, however, the ceremonial swearing-in and public inaugural ceremonies will take place on Monday, January 21, 2013.

This report responds to a variety of questions relating to the presidential inauguration: legislation concerning the inauguration; inauguration day as a federal holiday; the major costs of the 2009 inauguration; the expenditures of recent inaugural festivities (private funding only provided); historical facts on past presidential inaugurations; the various...

The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA)

This report discusses legislative attempts to amend the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) to allow for union certification without an election, based on signed employee authorizations. The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), introduced most recently as H.R. 1409 and S. 560 in the 111th Congress, would have allowed union certification based on signed authorizations, provided a process for the bargaining of an initial agreement, and prescribed new penalties for certain unfair labor practices. This report reviews the current process for selecting a bargaining representative under the NLRA and...

Economic Factors Affecting Small Business Lending and Loan Guarantees

Small businesses (usually defined as companies with 500 or fewer employees) are an important part of the nation’s economy. At various times during the business cycle, concern is voiced about the difficulties that small businesses have obtaining loans. There can be many reasons for periodic declines in small business lending over the business cycle: loan standards change, the quality of projects to be financed changes, and small businesses’ demand for loans fluctuates with anticipated customer demand.

Congress created the Small Business Administration (SBA) to assist small businesses in...

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) and Claims of Property Rights “Takings”

The federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) has long been one of the major flash points in debates over government interference with property rights. This report outlines the ESA provisions most relevant to the act’s impacts on private property and surveys the major ESA-relevant principles of Fifth Amendment takings law. The Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment promises “just compensation” when government actions “take” property.

The report then summarizes the court decisions on whether particular government actions (or inaction) based on the ESA “take” private property under the Fifth...

Public, Educational, and Governmental (PEG) Access Cable Television Channels: Issues for Congress

The environment for public, educational, and governmental (PEG) cable channels has been roiled by public policy and budgetary changes at the federal, state, and local levels and by technological changes in cable networks. More than 100 PEG access centers—which provide community groups and individuals free access to video production facilities and equipment, training, and programming time—have closed since 2005, and more may close when provisions in recently enacted state laws that eliminate requirements for cable companies to provide funding support take effect. Many PEG access centers,...

The Jackson-Vanik Amendment and Candidate Countries for WTO Accession: Issues for Congress

Unconditional most-favored-nation (MFN) status, or in U.S. statutory parlance, normal trade relations (NTR) status, is a fundamental principle of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Under this principle, WTO members are required unconditionally to treat imports of goods and services from any WTO member no less favorably than they treat the imports of like goods and services from any other WTO member country. Under Title IV of the Trade Act of 1974, as amended, most communist or nonmarket-economy countries were denied MFN status unless they fulfilled freedom-of-emigration conditions as...

Pages of the United States Congress: History and Program Administration

For more than 180 years, messengers known as pages have served the United States Congress. Pages must be high school juniors and at least 16 years of age. Several incumbent and former Members of Congress as well as other prominent Americans have served as congressional pages.

Senator Daniel Webster appointed the first Senate page in 1829. The first House pages began their service in 1842. Women were first appointed as pages in 1971.

In August 2011, House leaders announced the termination of that chamber’s page program.

Senate pages are appointed and sponsored by Senators for one academic...

Computer-Related Occupations Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) sets minimum standards for hourly wages, overtime pay, and child labor. The FLSA requires employers to pay covered employees at least $7.25 an hour and at least one-and-a-half times their regular hourly wage for hours worked over 40 hours a week at a given job. However, the FLSA includes a number of exemptions that exclude certain employees from the minimum wage and overtime standards of the act.

Section 13(a)(1) of the FLSA exempts from both the minimum wage and overtime pay standards of the act any person who is employed in a bona fide executive,...

Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act: A Primer

Enacted by the 100th Congress, the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act requires qualified employers that intend to carry out plant closings or mass layoffs to provide 60 days’ notice to affected employees, states, and localities. The purpose of the notice to workers is to allow them to seek alternative employment, arrange for retraining, and otherwise adjust to employment loss. The purpose of notifying states and localities is to allow them to promptly provide services to the dislocated workers and otherwise prepare for changes in the local labor market.

The WARN Act...

Offshoring of Airline Maintenance: Implications for Domestic Jobs and Aviation Safety

Airlines outsource maintenance to countries like China and El Salvador to achieve cost savings from the comparatively lower wages and from lower costs to build and maintain repair facilities. In some cases, particularly in China, government investment and other incentives, along with backing from national airlines, have spurred rapid expansion of the foreign aircraft maintenance industry over the past decade. While airline maintenance work outsourced to foreign repair facilities has increased considerably over the past decade, there are no conclusive data indicating that this has directly...

Administrative Subpoenas in Criminal Investigations: A Sketch

Proponents refer to administrative subpoenas as a quick, efficient and relatively nonintrusive law enforcement tool. Opponents express concern that they pose a threat of unchecked invasions of privacy and evasions of the Fourth Amendment warrant and probable cause requirements.

The courts have determined that, as long as they are not executed in a manner reminiscent of a warrant, administrative subpoenas issued in aid of a criminal investigation must be judicially enforced if they satisfy statutory requirements and are not unreasonable by Fourth Amendment standards.

The Child Protection...

Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006: Implementation Issues

The Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Improvement Act of 2006 (Perkins IV; P.L. 109-270) supports the development of academic and career and technical skills among secondary education students and postsecondary education students who elect to enroll in career and technical education (CTE) programs, sometimes referred to as vocational education programs. Perkins IV was authorized through FY2012, which ended on September 30, 2012. The authorization is extended through FY2013 under the General Education Provisions Act. This report provides a summary of potential reauthorization...

The Sustainability of the Federal Budget Deficit: Market Confidence and Economic Effects

The budget deficit has exceeded $1 trillion since 2009. Combined with a shrinking economy, deficits increased the publicly held federal debt by over 30 percentage points of GDP between 2008 and 2012. Deficits of this size are not sustainable in the long run because the federal debt cannot indefinitely grow faster than output. Over time, a greater and greater share of national income would be devoted to servicing the debt, until eventually the government would be forced to finance the debt through money creation or default.

The current policy debate on the “fiscal cliff” occurring at the...

The Controlled Substances Act: Regulatory Requirements

This report highlights certain non-criminal regulatory requirements of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). The CSA and its implementing regulations establish a framework through which the federal government regulates the use of controlled substances for legitimate medical, scientific, research, and industrial purposes, and prevents these substances from being diverted for illegal purposes. The CSA assigns various plants, drugs, and chemicals (such as narcotics, stimulants, depressants, hallucinogens, and anabolic steroids) to one of five schedules based on the substance’s medical use,...

Outside Employment, “Moonlighting,” by Federal Executive Branch Employees

Most federal employees in the executive branch of government are not subject to a broad, overall prohibition on so-called “moonlighting.” Rank-and-file employees of the government are generally free to take an additional, compensated job outside of their federal work, subject to certain specific “conflict of interest” limitations.

High-ranking officials of the government, on the other hand, may be prohibited from taking any outside compensated private job if they are presidential appointees, and may otherwise be limited in the type of outside employment and the amount of private...

Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act: Operation and Issues for Congress

The Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act (FLTFA), which expired on July 25, 2011, provided for the sale or exchange of lands owned by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) that have been identified for disposal under BLM’s land use plans. Most of the proceeds were to be used for land acquisition. The law’s goals included allowing for reconfiguration of land ownership patterns to better facilitate resource management, improving administrative efficiency, and increasing the effectiveness of the allocation of fiscal and human resources.

The authority to sell or exchange BLM lands under...

Education for Homeless Children and Youth: Program Overview and Legislation

The Education for Homeless Children and Youth program (EHCY) provides formula grants to state educational agencies (SEAs) to help ensure that all homeless children and youth have equal access to the same free and appropriate public education, including public preschool education that is provided to other children and youth. It is the only federal education program exclusively focused on homeless children and youth. SEAs competitively subgrant funds to local educational agencies (LEAs). Not all LEAs receive EHCY grants. In school year (SY) 2010-2011, 3,651 LEAs, out of a total of 16,290,...

The 2010 Census: Count Question Resolution Program

As data products from the 2010 decennial census continue to be disseminated, officials of some jurisdictions and the Members who represent these jurisdictions in Congress may have questions about the accuracy of the census counts for their areas. The Bureau of the Census’s Count Question Resolution (CQR) Program offers local officials a means to challenge certain 2010 census figures on the basis of detailed mapping evidence that they present to the Census Bureau.

The Bureau announced the 2010 census CQR Program in a March 8, 2011, Federal Register notice and began accepting CQR challenges...

Lifeline Telephone Program: Frequently Asked Questions

The concept that all Americans should have affordable access to the telecommunications network, commonly called the “universal service concept,” can trace its origins back to the 1934 Communications Act. The preservation and advancement of universal service has remained a basic tenet of federal communications policy, and in the mid-1980s the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) established the Lifeline program to provide support for low-income subscribers. The Lifeline program, which is administered under the Universal Service Fund (USF) Low Income Program, was established by the FCC in...

Pacific Salmon and Steelhead Trout: Managing Under the Endangered Species Act

Along the Pacific Coast, 28 distinct population segments of Pacific salmon and steelhead trout are listed as either endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), with three additional populations identified as “species of concern.” While no species of anadromous trout or salmon is in danger of near-term extinction, individual population segments within these species have declined substantially or have even been extirpated. The American Fisheries Society considers at least 214 Pacific Coast anadromous fish populations to be “at risk,” while at least 106 other historically...

Basic Federal Budgeting Terminology

In its most elemental form, the federal budget is a comprehensive accounting of the government’s spending, revenues, and borrowing. This report provides a brief overview of the basic terminology and concepts used in the federal budget process.

Entitlements and Appropriated Entitlements in the Federal Budget Process

Entitlements are programs that require payments to persons, state or local governments, or other entities if specific eligibility criteria established in the authorizing law are met. Entitlement payments are legal obligations of the federal government, and eligible beneficiaries may have legal recourse if full payment under the law is not provided. This report provides a brief explanation of spending for entitlements, including so-called appropriated entitlements, and discusses the procedural and statutory constraints on legislation affecting such entitlement spending.

Membership of the 112th Congress: A Profile

Report that presents a profile of the membership of the 112th Congress (2011-2012). Statistical information is included on selected characteristics of Members, including data on party affiliation, average age, occupation, education, length of congressional service, religious affiliation, gender, ethnicity, foreign births, and military service.

Special Order Speeches and Other Forms of Non-Legislative Debate in the House

Rules in the House of Representatives can limit the time allowed for floor speeches and require debate to be germane to pending business. A series of unanimous consent practices have evolved that permit Members to address the House for specified durations and at specified times on subjects of their own choosing, outside the consideration of legislative business. The principal forms of such non-legislative debate are special order speeches, one-minute speeches, and morning hour debates.

Baselines and Scorekeeping in the Federal Budget Process

Baselines and scorekeeping are an integral part of the federal budget process, providing lawmakers with a framework for making and enforcing budgetary decisions. The existing-law baseline, currently used by Congress, is a projection of federal spending, revenue, and the deficit (or surplus) that would occur if existing law were left unchanged. The baseline serves as a benchmark for federal budget decisions. Scorekeeping is the process by which the budgetary impact of proposed and enacted budget policies is measured; it assists Congress in making and enforcing budgetary decisions. This...

Federal Civil Rights Statutes: A Primer

Under federal law, an array of civil rights statutes is available to protect individuals from discrimination. This report provides a brief summary of selected federal civil rights statutes, including the Civil Rights Act, the Equal Pay Act, the Voting Rights Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Fair Housing Act, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the Rehabilitation Act, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, the Equal Educational Opportunities Act, the Age Discrimination Act, the Civil Service Reform Act, the Immigration and Nationality Act, the Americans with...

Congressional Redistricting: An Overview

The decennial apportionment process determines the number of seats in the House of Representatives for which each state qualifies, based on population counts (for more on the apportionment process, see CRS Report R41357, The U.S. House of Representatives Apportionment Formula in Theory and Practice, by Royce Crocker). The redistricting process determines where those seats are geographically located within each state. Apportionment allocates the seats by state, while redistricting draws the maps.

Redistricting is a state process governed by federal law. Much of this law is judicially...

House Legislative Procedures: Published Sources of Information

The House of Representatives has published information about its current procedures in three primary sources: a House manual, a book on House procedure written for everyday use, and a set of House precedents. The predecessors to these compilations also remain valuable for some purposes. These documents can enable Members and staff to study the House’s rules and precedents and to gauge how they are likely to apply in various circumstances.

Nutrition Labeling of Restaurant Menus

Rising rates of obesity and the resulting effects on citizens’ health and health care costs have prompted federal, state, and local policymakers to consider a number of policy options to reduce obesity levels in the United States, such as exercise promotion, nutrition education, and taxation of certain foods. Labeling of the nutritional content of foods purchased and consumed outside the home has been recommended by researchers and policymakers as one tool to address rising obesity rates.

The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA, P.L. 75-717, as amended) authorizes the Food and...

Air Quality: EPA’s 2012 Proposed Changes to the Particulate Matter (PM) Standard

On June 29, 2012, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a proposal to revise the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) under the Clean Air Act (CAA) for particulate matter (PM), in response to a June 6, 2012, order issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Environmental and public health advocacy groups and 11 states had petitioned the agency, and subsequently filed suit in the D.C. Circuit alleging that EPA failed to perform its mandated duty to complete the review of the PM NAAQS within the statutory deadline. EPA has agreed to issue...

Update on Controlling Greenhouse Gases from International Aviation

EU ETS international aviation greenhouse gases GHG carbon dioxide CO2 S. 1956 emissions trading International Civil Aviation Organization ICAO UNFCCC European Union climate change global warming international flights Airlines for America A4A China cap-and-trade market-based incentives market-based mechanisms emissions control

The President-Elect: Succession and Disability Issues During the Transition Period

Presidential transition is usually defined as the period and process that take place when one President prepares to leave office, due to retirement or failure to win reelection, and a successor prepares for inauguration. In modern times, the transition period begins immediately after the general election, which is held on Tuesday after the first Monday in November of every presidential election year, and concludes on the following January 20, when the new chief executive is sworn in. For the purposes of this report, the preceding period, which begins with the national party nominating...

Congressional Staff: Duties and Functions of Selected Positions

The United States Congress conducts several types of activities for which it employs staff. These activities include assisting Members in official responsibilities in personal, committee, leadership, or administrative office settings. Congressional career tracks generally mirror common stages of other professional careers, but with adaptations to the congressional workplace. These adaptations include relatively short career ladders on which staff may acquire substantial responsibilities in a relatively short period of time, and close support of a Member’s legislative and representational...

Hurricane Sandy and the 2012 Election: Fact Sheet

Report examining what actions the federal government might take to respond to Hurricane Sandy's impact on the November 6, 2012, election.

Federal Crop Insurance for Specialty Crops: Background and Legislative Proposals

The federal crop insurance program provides farmers with risk management tools to address crop yield and/or revenue losses on their farms. Farmers can purchase subsidized policies that pay an indemnity when their production or revenue falls below a guaranteed level.

Historically, the federal crop insurance program primarily has covered traditional farm program crops such as wheat, corn, and soybeans. However, the crop insurance program has expanded in recent decades, and policies are available now for a wide range of commodities, including specialty crops such as fruits and vegetables. In...

Mayo v. Prometheus: Implications for Patents, Biotechnology, and Personalized Medicine

The recent enactment of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA), P.L. 112-29, suggests congressional interest in patents on diagnostic methods. In particular, Section 27 of the AIA required the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to conduct a study on the patenting of genetic diagnostic tests. The 2012 decision of the Supreme Court in Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Laboratories, Inc. also addressed these sorts of patents. The Court’s decision arguably placed severe limitations on the ability of inventors to obtain diagnostic method patents.

Some observers have welcomed Mayo v....

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act: Title VII, Derivatives

The financial crisis implicated the over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives market as a major source of systemic risk. A number of firms used derivatives to construct highly leveraged speculative positions, which generated enormous losses that threatened to bankrupt not only the firms themselves but also their creditors and trading partners. Hundreds of billions of dollars in government credit were needed to prevent such losses from cascading throughout the system. AIG was the best-known example, but by no means the only one.

Equally troublesome was the fact that the OTC market depended on the...

Federal Involvement in Flood Response and Flood Infrastructure Repair: Hurricane Sandy Recovery

Hurricane Sandy was a reminder that the United States is vulnerable to significant weather hazards, and that infrequent but intense flood events can cause significant damage and disruption. In addition to wind damages and electricity disruptions, the storm’s surge damaged property and infrastructure in coastal and inlet areas, while the storm’s rains and snowmelt swelled rivers and creeks. These impacts contributed to public safety concerns and private and public property loss. Although the storm was not notable for its wind intensity, Sandy’s significant size, its unusually low...

Child Welfare: A Detailed Overview of Program Eligibility and Funding for Foster Care, Adoption Assistance and Kinship Guardianship Assistance under Title IV-E of the Social Security Act

Under Title IV-E of the Social Security Act, states, territories, and tribes are entitled to claim partial federal reimbursement for the cost of providing foster care, adoption assistance, and kinship guardianship assistance to children who meet federal eligibility criteria. The Title IV-E program, as it is commonly called, provides support for monthly payments on behalf of eligible children, as well as funds for related case management activities, training, data collection, and other costs of program administration. In FY2011, states (including the 50 states and the District of Columbia)...

President of the United States: Compensation

The Constitution of the United States provides that “The President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation, which shall neither be increased nor diminished during the Period for which he shall have been elected.... ” (Constitution of the United States, Article II, Section 1.) The amount of compensation, which is not specified in the Constitution, is set and adjusted by Congress. The President currently receives a salary of $400,000 per annum, which became effective at noon on January 20, 2001, under P.L. 106-58. (P.L. 106-58, Title VI, §644(a); September 29, 1999;...

Spending for Federal Benefits and Services for People with Low Income, FY2008-FY2011: An Update of Table B-1 from CRS Report R41625, Modified to Remove Programs for Veterans

This memorandum provides information on federal spending for programs explicitly intended for people with low or limited income.

Privacy: An Abbreviated Outline of Federal Statutes Governing Wiretapping and Electronic Eavesdropping

This report provides an overview of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). ECPA consists of three parts. The first, often referred to as Title III, outlaws wiretapping and electronic eavesdropping, except as otherwise provided. The second, the Stored Communications Act, governs the privacy of, and government access to, the content of electronic communications and to related records. The third outlaws the use and installation of pen registers and of trap and trace devices, unless judicially approved for law enforcement or...

Privacy: An Abridged Overview of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act

This report provides an overview of federal law governing wiretapping and electronic eavesdropping under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA).

It is a federal crime to wiretap or to use a machine to capture the communications of others without court approval, unless one of the parties has given his prior consent. It is likewise a federal crime to use or disclose any information acquired by illegal wiretapping or electronic eavesdropping. Violations can result in imprisonment for not more than five years; fines up to $250,000 (up to $500,000 for organizations); civil liability...

Churches and Campaign Activity: Analysis Under Tax and Campaign Finance Laws

As the 2012 election cycle heats up, there are allegations that some houses of worship have engaged in impermissible activities. Under the Internal Revenue Code (IRC), churches and other houses of worship with tax-exempt 501(c)(3) status may not participate in campaign activity. They are permitted under the tax laws to engage in other activities that are political in nature (e.g., distribute voter guides and invite candidates to speak at church functions) so long as the activity does not support or oppose a candidate. Additionally, religious leaders may engage in campaign activity in their...

U.S. Arms Sales: Agreements with and Deliveries to Major Clients, 2004-2011

This report provides background data on U.S. arms sales agreements with and deliveries to its major purchasers during calendar years 2004-2011, made through the U.S. Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program. In a series of data tables, it lists the total dollar values of U.S. government-to-government arms sales agreements with its top five purchasers, and the total dollar values of U.S. arms deliveries to those purchasers, in five specific regions of the world for three specific periods: 2004-2007, 2008-2011, and 2011 alone. In addition, the report provides data tables listing the total dollar...

Length of Time from Nomination to Confirmation for “Uncontroversial” U.S. Circuit and District Court Nominees: Detailed Analysis

In recent years, a recurring subject of debate in the Senate has been the length of time taken for lower court nominations to receive Senate confirmation. During the 111th and 112th Congresses, this debate has focused, in part, on President Obama’s uncontroversial nominees to U.S. circuit and district court judgeships—and on whether, or to what extent, such nominees have waited longer to receive Senate confirmation than the uncontroversial judicial nominees of other recent Presidents.

To more fully inform this debate, the following report provides a statistical overview, from Presidents...

The Tobacco Control Act’s Ban of Clove Cigarettes and the WTO: A Detailed Analysis

In 2009, Congress passed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (Tobacco Control Act), which banned the sale of all flavored cigarettes, except menthol cigarettes, in Section 907(a)(1)(A). Indonesia, a major producer of clove cigarettes, challenged the Tobacco Control Act’s ban on non-menthol flavored cigarettes before a World Trade Organization (WTO) panel, claiming, among other things, that it violated Articles 2.1 and 2.2 of the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT Agreement). Article 2.1 requires WTO members to ensure that domestic regulations setting forth...

Prospects for Democracy in Hong Kong: Results of the 2012 Elections

Hong Kong selected a new Chief Executive and Legislative Council (Legco) in March and September of 2012, respectively. Both elections delivered surprising results for different reasons. The eventual selection of Leung Chu-ying (CY Leung) as Chief Executive came after presumed front-runner Henry Tang Ying-yen ran into a series of personal scandals. The Legco election results surprised many as several of the traditional parties fared poorly while several new parties emerged victorious.

The 2012 elections in Hong Kong are important for the city’s future prospect for democratic reforms...

Whistleblower Protections Under Federal Law: An Overview

Legal protections for employees who report illegal misconduct by their employers have increased dramatically since the late 1970s when such protections were first adopted for federal employees in the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978. Since that time, with the enactment of the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989, Congress has expanded such protections for federal employees. Congress has also established whistleblower protections for individuals in certain private-sector employment through the adoption of whistleblower provisions in at least 18 federal statutes. Among these statutes are the...

The Unemployment Trust Fund and Reed Act Distributions

Under the Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA; P.L. 76-379), the federal unemployment tax on employers finances the states’ administrative costs of Unemployment Compensation (UC) and loans to states with insolvent UC programs. The extended benefits program is funded 50% by the federal government and 50% by the states, but the 2009 stimulus package (P.L. 111-5 §2005) as amended temporarily provides for 100% federal funding of this program through December 31, 2012.

FUTA tax revenues are placed into the Unemployment Trust Fund (UTF) that—among its many accounts—contains three federal accounts...

An Economic Analysis of Large-Scale Mortgage Refinancing Proposals: A Brief Overview of S. 3522 and S. 3085

The bursting of the housing bubble in 2006 precipitated the December 2007-June 2009 recession and a financial panic in September 2008. With the housing market seen as a locus for many of the economic problems that emerged, some Members of Congress propose intervening in the housing market as a means of improving not only the housing market itself but also the financial sector and the broader economy. Critics are concerned that further intervention could prolong the housing slump, delay recovery, and affect outcomes based on the government’s preferences. One frequently discussed proposal...

TARP Assistance for Chrysler: Restructuring and Repayment Issues

The recent recession and accompanying credit crisis posed severe challenges for all automakers, but especially for General Motors and Chrysler. Executives of both companies testified before congressional committees in the fall of 2008 requesting federal bridge loans. Legislation that would have provided such financial assistance passed the House of Representatives but did not pass the Senate. In lieu of that assistance, the Bush Administration turned to the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), a $700 billion program that was enacted in October 2008 to shore up the financial system and...

The National Labor Relations Act: Background and Selected Topics

The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA or “the Act”) recognizes the right of employees to engage in collective bargaining through representatives of their own choosing. By “encouraging the practice and procedure of collective bargaining,” the Act attempts to mitigate and eliminate labor-related obstructions to the free flow of commerce. Although union membership has declined dramatically since the 1950s, congressional interest in the NLRA remains significant. In the 112th Congress, over 30 bills have been introduced to amend the NLRA. Some of these bills address the timing of union...

Political Ads: Issue Advocacy or Campaign Activity Under the Tax Code?

Television and radio airwaves are inundated with political ads right now, and their numbers will only increase as the November 2012 elections get closer. Some ads expressly tell viewers or listeners which candidate to vote for or against. Others take a different approach. These ads typically urge people to contact an elected official, who also happens to be a candidate in the upcoming election, and tell him/her to support an issue or piece of legislation. Sometimes they do not even mention any candidate/officeholder by name, yet some still feel political in nature.

The question of whether...

Internet Firearm and Ammunition Sales

As the Internet has become a significant venue for facilitating commercial transactions, concerns have arisen regarding the use of this medium to transfer firearms. This report discusses the sale of firearms and ammunition over the Internet, with a focus on the extent to which federal law regulates such activity. A review of the relevant factors indicates Internet-based firearm transactions are subject to the same regulatory scheme governing traditional firearm transactions. Over the years, this has raised concern about the possibility of increased violation of federal firearm laws, as...

The Posse Comitatus Act and Related Matters: A Sketch

The Posse Comitatus Act states that “Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or the Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.” 18 U.S.C. §1385. It reflects an American tradition that bridles at military involvement in civilian affairs. Congress, however, has approved a number of instances where extraordinary circumstances warrant a departure from the general rule, particularly in cases...

Why Some Fuel-Efficient Vehicles Are Not Sold Domestically

diesel vehicles, EPA, greenhouse gas emissions, Volkswagen, Ford, fuel efficiency, miles per gallon, automobiles

Child Custody and Support: Frequently Asked Questions

Under the U.S. Constitution, Congress has little direct authority to legislate in the field of domestic relations. Generally, state policy guides these decisions. Despite the lack of direct authority to legislate domestic relations issues, Congress continues to enact federal laws that indirectly affect family law questions concerning child custody and support. This report answers questions frequently asked regarding the interplay between federal and state laws governing these areas.

Wiretapping, Tape Recorders, and Legal Ethics: An Abridged Overview of Questions Posed by Attorney Involvement in Secretly Recording Conversation

In some jurisdictions, it is unethical for an attorney to secretly record a conversation even though it is not illegal to do so. A few states require the consent of all parties to a conversation before it may be recorded. Recording without mutual consent is both illegal and unethical in those jurisdictions. Elsewhere the issue is more complicated.

In 1974, the American Bar Association (ABA) opined that surreptitiously recording a conversation without the knowledge or consent of all of the participants violated the ethical prohibition against engaging in conduct involving “dishonesty,...

Wiretapping, Tape Recorders, and Legal Ethics: An Overview of Questions Posed by Attorney Involvement in Secretly Recording Conversation

In some jurisdictions, it is unethical for an attorney to secretly record a conversation even though it is not illegal to do so. A few states require the consent of all parties to a conversation before it may be recorded. Recording without mutual consent is both illegal and unethical in those jurisdictions. Elsewhere the matter is more uncertain.

In 1974, the American Bar Association (ABA) opined that surreptitiously recording a conversation without the knowledge or consent of all of the participants violated the ethical prohibition against engaging in conduct involving “dishonesty, fraud,...

Disposal of Unneeded Federal Buildings: Legislative Proposals in the 112th Congress

Federal executive branch agencies hold an extensive real property portfolio that includes approximately 399,000 buildings. These assets have been acquired over a period of decades to help agencies fulfill their diverse missions. Agencies hold buildings with a range of uses, including offices, health clinics, warehouses, and laboratories. As agencies’ missions change over time, so, too, do their real property needs, thereby rendering some assets less useful or unneeded altogether. Healthcare provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), for example, has shifted in recent decades from...

Executive Compensation at the U. S. Postal Service: Issues for the 112th Congress

Media reports and some Members of Congress have expressed concerns that the pay of U.S. Postal Service (USPS) executives is too high and should be reduced. USPS and others have argued that current compensation rates are needed to attract talented employees to a Postal Service that delivers mail and packages to homes and businesses throughout the United States without taxpayer assistance.

The 112th Congress has taken action on two bills that would limit USPS executive compensation or benefits. S. 1789 would remove certain “fringe benefits” and cap pay at Level I of the Executive Schedule...

LIBOR: Frequently Asked Questions

The London Interbank Offer Rate (LIBOR) is an estimate of prevailing interest rates in London money markets. Barclays, a British bank that serves on the panel responding to the LIBOR survey, recently admitted submitting false responses to manipulate the index (and attempting to manipulate a similar index, the Euro Interbank Offer Rate [EURIBOR]). The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) reached settlements with Barclays in which the bank agreed to admit fault and pay a large fine.

This report answers several frequently asked questions.

How...

Postal Service: Collective Bargaining

This report describes the scope of the collective bargaining authority that Congress has granted to the Postal Service and authority of Congress to modify employee-management relations by altering that scope or the terms of collective bargaining agreements. It also summarizes some provisions—H.R. 2309, the Postal Reform Act of 2011, and S. 1789, the 21st Century Postal Service Act of 2012, both of the 112th Congress—that relate to collective bargaining.

This report will be updated to reflect changes in relevant developments.

An Analysis of Charitable Giving and Donor Advised Funds

Congress has long been concerned with ensuring that contributions for which tax deductions are claimed directly benefit charitable activities. Private foundations, a traditional arrangement that allows donations to non-active charitable entities, typically pay grants out of earnings on donated assets. Another arrangement that is growing rapidly is the donor advised fund (DAF). A taxpayer contributes to a DAF, taking a tax deduction. The fund sponsor makes grants to active charities, advised by the donor. Unlike private foundations, DAFs are not required to pay out a certain proportion of...

U.S. Postal Service: Background and Analysis of H.R. 2309 and S. 1789 in the 112th Congress

Since FY2007, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has lost more than $25 billion. Were it not for congressional action to reduce and defer statutorily required retiree health benefits, the USPS would have lost an additional $9.5 billion. As the USPS’s finances have deteriorated, its ability to absorb operating losses has been diminished. The USPS’s current debt is $13 billion, $2 billion below its maximum statutory borrowing authority. The agency owes $11.1 billion in payments to the Retiree Health Benefits Fund by September 20, 2012, and it currently has less than $1 billion in cash. These...

Federal Advisory Committees: An Overview

Federal advisory committees—which may be designated as commissions, councils, or task forces—are created as provisional advisory bodies to collect viewpoints on various policy issues. Advisory bodies have been created to address a host of issues and can help the government manage and solve complex or divisive issues. Congress, the President, or an agency head may create a federal advisory committee to render independent advice or make policy recommendations to various federal agencies or departments.

In 1972, Congress enacted the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA; 5 U.S.C....

Proposals to Amend RCRA: Analysis of Pending Legislation Applicable to the Management of Coal Combustion Residuals

On April 24, 2012, the House and Senate began the conference process to reconcile legislation passed in both houses that would extend authorization for Department of Transportation programs. Title V in the House-passed legislation (H.R. 4348), Highway and Infrastructure Safety Through the Protection of Coal Combustion Residual Recycling, would amend the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) to add Section 4011. Largely identical to the Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act passed in the House (H.R. 2273) and introduced in the Senate (S. 1751), the proposed Section 4011 would...

Health Care Flexible Spending Accounts

Health care Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) are benefit plans established by employers to reimburse employees for health care expenses such as deductibles and copayments. FSAs are usually funded by employees through salary reduction agreements, although employers are permitted to contribute as well. The contributions to and withdrawals from FSAs are tax-exempt.

Historically, health care FSA contributions were forfeited if not used by the end of the year. However, in 2005, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) formally determined that employers may extend the deadline for using unspent...

Veterans Affairs: Historical Budget Authority, FY1940-FY2012

Budget authority—the amount of money a federal department or agency can spend or obligate to spend by law—for veterans’ benefits and services has increased significantly since FY1940. In FY1940, the budget authority for veterans’ benefits and services was $561.1 million, and in FY2012 the budget authority was $125.3 billion, or more than 200 times the FY1940 budget authority. In constant 2011 dollars (i.e., inflation-adjusted), the FY2012 budget authority is 14 times the FY1940 budget authority. The increases over time have reflected the impact of increases in the number of veterans as the...

The 3.8% Medicare Contribution Tax on Unearned Income, Including Real Estate Transactions

The Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 (HCERA, P.L. 111-152) contains a provision that will subject certain individuals to a 3.8% “unearned income Medicare contribution” tax beginning in 2013. The tax has been labeled by some as a “home sales tax” or “real estate tax.” The tax, however, is not exclusively limited to real estate transactions. Additionally, contrary to some reports, the tax does not apply to all real estate transactions. Some taxpayers that dispose of real estate may be exempt from the tax either because of income limitations or because of an exclusion...

Presidential Travel: Policy and Costs

For security and other reasons, the President, Vice President, and First Lady use military aircraft when they travel. The White House generally categorizes the trips as fulfilling either official or political functions. Often, a trip involves both official and political, or unofficial, activities. When a trip is for an official function, the government pays all costs, including per diem (food and lodging), car rentals, and other incidental expenses. When a trip is for political or unofficial purposes, those involved must pay for their own food and lodging and other related expenses, and...

Clarifying the Concept of “Partnership” in National Security: In Brief

Over the last few years, the term partnership has spread like wildfire through official U.S. national security guidance documents and rhetoric. At the Department of Defense (DOD), which spearheaded the proliferation of the use of the term, partnership has been used to refer to a broad array of civilian as well as military activities in support of national security. At other U.S. government agencies, and at the White House, the use of the term partnership has been echoed and applied even more broadlynot only in the national security arena, but also to all facets of U.S. relationships with...

Reconciliation Directives: Components and Enforcement

The purpose of the reconciliation process is to enhance Congress’s ability to bring existing spending, revenue, and debt-limit laws into compliance with current fiscal priorities established in the annual budget resolution. When Congress adopts a budget resolution, it is agreeing upon its budgetary goals for the upcoming fiscal year. In some cases, for these goals to be achieved, Congress must pass legislation that alters current revenue, direct spending, or debt-limit laws. Reconciliation instructions are the means by which Congress can establish the roles that specific committees will...

Issues and Challenges for Federal Geospatial Information

Congress has recognized the challenge of coordinating and sharing geospatial data from the local, county, and state level to the national level, and vice versa. The cost to the federal government of gathering and coordinating geospatial information has also been an ongoing concern. As much as 80% of government information has a geospatial component, according to various sources. The federal government’s role has changed from being a primary provider of authoritative geospatial information to coordinating and managing geospatial data and facilitating partnerships. Congress explored issues...

Requiring Parental Involvement in a Pregnant Minor’s Abortion Decision: State Laws and Recent Developments

State laws that require parental involvement in a pregnant minor’s abortion decision have gained greater visibility in light of recent attempts by Congress to criminalize the interstate transport of a minor to obtain an abortion. At least forty-four states have enacted statutes that require a minor to seek either parental notification or parental consent before obtaining an abortion. This report discusses the validity of state parental involvement laws in the context of Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, and other...

Members of Congress Who Die in Office: Historic and Current Practices

Since 1973, 84 Members of Congress—69 Representatives and 15 Senators—have died in office. When a sitting Member dies, the House and Senate carry out a number of actions based on chamber rules, statutes, and long-standing practices. Some observances, such as adjourning briefly as a mark of respect to the deceased, appointing Member delegations to attend funerals of deceased colleagues, or paying the costs of a funeral from public funds, were initially observed in the earliest Congresses, or predate the national legislature established under the Constitution. It appears that contemporary...

Subsidy Cost of Federal Credit: Cost to the Government or Fair Value Cost?

Since the mid-1980s, budget experts have debated whether the best method of measuring the subsidy cost of federal credit (direct loans and loan guarantees) is the cost to the government or the fair value cost. The cost to the government would reflect the actual budget cost measured by discounting of expected cash flows associated with each program at the interest rate on risk-free Treasury securities. The measure of the cost to the government would place the cost of federal credit on the same basis as a grant or a tax expenditure; consequently, policymakers would have an incentive to use...

Legal Issues Regarding Census Data for Reapportionment and Redistricting

This report provides an overview of selected issues regarding census data that have arisen during recent decennial censuses, including use of sampling or other estimation techniques and counting U.S. citizens residing abroad. The Constitution requires that state representation in the House of Representatives be based on a population census conducted at least once every 10 years. The Constitution does not expressly require use of official federal decennial census data for intrastate redistricting, but courts have found that states must use the best data available, which may or may not be...

Federal Depository Library Program: Issues for Congress

Congress established the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) to provide free public access to federal government information. The program’s origins date to 1813; the current structure of the program was established in 1962 and is overseen by the Government Printing Office (GPO). Access to government information is provided through a network of depository libraries across the United States. In the past half-century, information creation, distribution, retention, and preservation has expanded from a tangible, paper-based process to include digital processes managed largely through...

Prosecution of Public Corruption: An Abridged Overview of Amendments Under H.R. 2572 and S. 2038

The House Judiciary Committee has approved an amended version of the Clean Up Government Act (H.R. 2572). The Senate has passed nearly identical provisions as Title II of the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act (STOCK Act; S. 2038). Title II, however, was dropped from the bill prior to its enactment as P.L. 112-105, 126 Stat. 291 (2012). Among other things, Title II and H.R. 2572 would each:

Expand the scope of federal mail and wire fraud statutes to reach undisclosed self-dealing by public officials—in response to Skilling.

Amend the definition of official act for bribery...

Data Security Breach Notification Laws

A data security breach occurs when there is a loss or theft of, or other unauthorized access to, sensitive personally identifiable information that could result in the potential compromise of the confidentiality or integrity of data. Forty-six states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands have laws requiring notification of security breaches involving personal information. Federal statutes, regulations, and a memorandum for federal departments and agencies require certain sectors (healthcare, financial, federal public sector, and the Department of Veterans Affairs)...

Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) and Its Implementing Regulations

The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) seeks to cut off the flow of revenue to unlawful Internet gambling businesses. It outlaws receipt of checks, credit card charges, electronic funds transfers, and the like by such businesses. It also enlists the assistance of banks, credit card issuers and other payment system participants to help stem the flow of funds to unlawful Internet gambling businesses. To that end, it authorizes the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve System (the Agencies), in consultation with the Justice Department, to promulgate implementing...

Selected Federal Data Security Breach Legislation

The protection of data, particularly data that can be used to identify individuals, has become an issue of great concern to Congress. There is no comprehensive federal law governing the protection of data held by private actors. Only those entities covered by the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, 15 U.S.C. §§6801-6809, (certain financial institutions) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), 42 U.S.C. §1320d et seq., and amendments to HIPAA contained in the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH Act), P.L. 111-5, (certain health care...

Indian Gaming: Legal Background and the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA)

In the 1980s, a number of Indian tribes developed high-stakes bingo and other gaming operations to raise non-federal revenue to fund their governments. In 1988, after the Supreme Court held, in California v. Cabazon Band of Mission Indians, that federal and tribal interests in Indian gaming preempted state law such that state regulation of gaming did not apply to tribal gaming operations on tribal land, Congress passed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). IGRA provides a statutory basis for Indian tribes to conduct gaming on “Indian lands” and establishes a regime for regulating Indian...

Crowdfunding and the Exemption for Small Firms from Securities and Exchange Commission Registration Requirements

Crowdfunding refers to the financing of an activity through the collective cooperation of people who pool their money or other resources, sometimes through a networking site on the Internet. Common goals of crowdfunding involve such activities as disaster relief, political campaigns, and investing. In the investment area, crowdfunding may involve relatively small individual monetary contributions from a group of investors in order to meet a specific goal. Crowdfunding in the investment area received increased attention in the 112th Congress, resulting with the passage of the Jumpstart Our...

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act: Executive Compensation

As part of their financial regulatory reform legislation, both the House and the Senate passed bills with provisions applying to executive compensation. The House- and Senate-passed executive compensation provisions differed, in some cases significantly.

The House and Senate conferees on Wall Street reform passed an executive compensation subtitle. On June 30, 2010, the House agreed to the conference report for H.R. 4173, now referred to as the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank). The Senate agreed to the conference report on July 15, 2010. The President...

Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (Management Assessment of Internal Controls): Current Regulation and Congressional Concerns

Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 requires the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to issue rules requiring annual reports filed by reporting issuers to state the responsibility of management for establishing and maintaining an adequate internal control structure and procedures for financial reporting and for each accounting firm auditing the issuer’s annual report to attest to the assessment made of the internal accounting procedures made by the issuer’s management. There have been criticisms that this provision is overly burdensome and costly for small and medium-sized...

The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA): A Summary

This report summarizes the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) and the major regulatory programs that mandate reporting by industrial facilities of releases of potentially hazardous chemicals to the environment, as well as local planning to respond in the event of significant, accidental releases. The text is excerpted, with minor modifications, from the corresponding chapter of CRS Report RL30798, Environmental Laws: Summaries of Major Statutes Administered by the Environmental Protection Agency, coordinated by David M. Bearden, which summarizes major environmental...

Burma’s April Parliamentary By-Elections

The Republic of the Union of Myanmar (Burma) held parliamentary by-elections on April 1, 2012. According to the official results announced by Union Election Commission (UEC), the National League for Democracy (NLD) won all but two of the 45 seats, including NLD Chair Aung San Suu Kyi winning a seat in the lower house of Burma’s national parliament. Depending its assessment of the conduct of the election and the official election results, the Obama Administration may seek to alter policy towards Burma, possibly including the waiver or removal of some current sanctions. Such a shift may...

U.S. National Science Foundation: Major Research Equipment and Facility Construction

The Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (MREFC) account of the National Science Foundation (NSF) supports the acquisition and construction of major research facilities and equipment that are to extend the boundaries of science, engineering, and technology. The facilities include telescopes, earth simulators, astronomical observatories, and mobile research platforms. Currently, the NSF provides approximately $1.0 billion annually in support of facilities and other infrastructure projects. While the NSF does not directly design or operate research facilities, it does have...

FY2013 Budget Documents: Internet and GPO Availability

This report provides brief descriptions of the budget volumes and related documents, together with Internet addresses, Government Printing Office (GPO) stock numbers, and prices for obtaining print copies of these publications. It also explains how to find the locations of government depository libraries, which can provide both printed copies for reference use and Internet access to the online versions.

Asset Distribution of Taxable Estates: An Analysis

This report provides data on the distribution of assets in estates as reported on estate tax returns filed in 2009 and 2010. The data for 2010 are unique, as the estate tax was repealed for those who died in calendar year 2010. Thus, the 2010 data are presented as an appendix to this report. Based on the 2009 data, this report finds that farm and business assets represent a small share of the total value of taxable estates that filed tax returns in 2009 (3.25% and 13.86%, respectively). That share is concentrated in estates valued over $10 million. For an overview of the estate tax, see...

A Separate Consumer Price Index for the Elderly?

The federal government, in an effort to protect the purchasing power of Social Security beneficiaries, indexes benefits to increases in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W). Concern has periodically been expressed that the CPI-W may understate the impact of inflation on the elderly population and that it therefore may not be the most appropriate measure of inflation’s impact on the elderly.

At the behest of Congress, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) developed an experimental price index to track changes in the cost of living for the...

Selected Agency Budget Justifications for FY2013

This report provides a convenient listing of online FY2013 agency budget justification submissions for all 15 executive branch departments and 9 selected independent agencies.

The Davis-Bacon Act and Changes in Prevailing Wage Rates, 2000 to 2008

The Davis-Bacon Act requires employers to pay workers at least the locally prevailing wage and fringe benefits on federal construction projects of more than $2,000. These wages and benefits are the minimum that employers must pay workers. In order to hire and retain workers, employers may pay more than the minimum amounts. Issues for Congress include the effect of the Davis-Bacon Act on labor costs in federal construction and the earnings of construction workers and their families. Other concerns include the administration and enforcement of the act.

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL)...

Taxing Large Pass-Throughs As Corporations: How Many Firms Would Be Affected?

Several lawmakers and the Obama Administration have expressed interest in taxing large partnerships and S corporations, also known as pass-throughs, as corporations. Part of this interest appears to be related to deficit and debt concerns. Pass-throughs may be a source of revenue since they currently account for over half of all business income but generally pay no corporate tax. Additionally, there is a growing concern that the current business tax environment may be inequitable and inefficient. Today, two business that are otherwise identical except that one is a corporation and the...

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): Movie Captioning and Video Description

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a broad civil rights statute prohibiting discrimination against individuals with disabilities. Title III of the ADA prohibits discrimination by public accommodations, which are defined to include movie theaters, but the statute does not include specific language on closed captioning or video description. Although the Department of Justice (DOJ) has promulgated regulations under Title III, it has not specifically addressed issues regarding closed captioning or video description. However, DOJ has issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking...

Overview of Health Care Changes in the FY2013 Budget Proposal Offered by House Budget Committee Chairman Ryan

On March 20, 2012, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan released the Chairman’s mark of the FY2013 House budget resolution together with his report entitled “The Path to Prosperity: A Blueprint for American Renewal,” which outlines his budgetary objectives. On the same day, CBO issued an analysis of the long-term budgetary impact of Chairman Ryan’s budget proposal based on specifications provided by House Budget Committee staff. The House Budget Committee considered and amended the Chairman’s mark on March 21, 2012, and voted to report the budget resolution to the full House....

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): Application to the Internet

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides broad nondiscrimination protection in employment, public services, public accommodations and services operated by private entities, transportation, and telecommunications for individuals with disabilities. As stated in the act, its purpose is “to provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities.”

However, the ADA, enacted on July 26, 1990, prior to widespread use of the Internet, does not specifically cover the Internet, and the issue of coverage has not been...

The Supreme Court Allows Pre-enforcement Review of Clean Water Act Section 404 Compliance Orders: Sackett v. EPA

On March 21, 2012, the Supreme Court resolved a long-simmering issue of federal environmental enforcement. The issue in Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency involved the “administrative compliance order” (ACO), frequently used by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to enforce statutes it administers. The Court held that the Administrative Procedure Act makes available “pre-enforcement review” of ACOs under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (CWA), which establishes the federal wetlands permitting program. Recipients of Section 404 ACOs no longer have to wait, while penalties...

Federal Statutes: What They Are and Where to Find Them

This report provides a brief overview of federal statutes and where to find them, both in print and on the Internet. When Congress passes a law, it may amend or repeal earlier enactments or it may create new law. Newly enacted laws are published chronologically, first as separate statutes in “slip law” form and later cumulatively in a series of volumes known as the Statutes at Large. Statutes are numbered by order of enactment either as public laws or, far less frequently, private laws, depending on their scope. Most statutes are incorporated into the United States Code. The United States...

The Impact of Budget Proposals on Tax-Exempt Bonds

Under current law, interest income from bonds issued by state and local governments is exempt from federal income taxes. In addition, interest on bonds issued by certain nonprofit entities and authorities is also exempt from federal income taxes. Together, these tax preferences are estimated to generate a federal revenue loss of $309.9 billion over the 2012 to 2016 budget window. Along with this direct “cost,” economic theory holds that tax-exempt bonds distort investment decisions (leading to over-investment in this sector). As with many other tax preferences, the income exclusion is...

Ethical Considerations in Assisting Constituents With Grant Requests Before Federal Agencies

There is no inherent ethical problem with a Member’s office assisting constituents and constituent organizations with the procedures and applications for federal grants. Although in most instances such assistance would involve the provision and distribution of grant information to constituents and constituent groups, it is possible that on occasion, if the office deems it appropriate, the office may contact a federal agency to express interest in and support of the grant application.

In conducting such assistance, three general areas of ethical considerations should be noted:

In...

Changes to the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA): Overview of the New Framework of Products and Processes

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. When GPRA 1993 was enacted, it was regarded as a watershed for the federal government. For the first time, Congress established statutory requirements for most agencies to set goals, measure performance, and submit related plans and reports (hereafter, “products”) to Congress for its potential use.

After a four-year phase-in period for GPRA 1993 and 13 years...

Presidential Nominating Process: Current Issues

After a period of uncertainty over the presidential nominating calendar for 2012, the early states again settled on January dates for primaries and caucuses. Iowa held its caucuses on January 3 and New Hampshire held its primary on January 10. These two states, along with South Carolina and Nevada, are exempt from Republican national party rules that do not permit delegate selection contests prior to the first Tuesday in March, but specify that these contests may not be held before February 1. Officials in Florida announced that the state would hold a January 31, 2012, primary, in...

U.S. Implementation of Basel II.5, Basel III, and Harmonization with the Dodd-Frank Act

The Basel III Capital Accord, which was produced by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision at the Bank for International Settlements, is the latest in a series of evolving agreements among central banks and bank supervisory authorities from around the world to establish minimum capital requirements for financial institutions. Capital serves as a cushion against sudden financial shocks (such as an unusually high occurrence of loan defaults), which can otherwise lead to insolvency. The Basel III regulatory reform package revises the definition of regulatory capital and increases the...

Civilian Property Realignment Act of 2011 (H.R. 1734): Analysis of Key Provisions

In an effort to reduce the costs associated with maintaining thousands of unneeded and underutilized federal buildings, and to generate revenue through the sale of such properties, the 112th Congress is considering several real property reform bills. Perhaps the most comprehensive of these proposals is H.R. 1734, the Civilian Property Realignment Act (CPRA) of 2011. CPRA was introduced on May 4, 2011, and reported by the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management on May 25, 2011. CPRA was reported...

The Arecibo Ionospheric Observatory

The Arecibo Ionospheric Observatory is a radio and radar telescope located in Barrio Esperanza, Arecibo, Puerto Rico. The Arecibo Observatory is managed, operated, and maintained by SRI International, under contract with the National Science Foundation (NSF). In 2005-2006, NSF’s Division of Astronomical Sciences (AST) conducted a Senior Review of its portfolio of facilities. Among other things, the Senior Review was to identify potential reinvestment in the highest priority existing programs in AST and restructure the operational efficiency of the existing facilities. The Review reported...

Financial Performance of the Major Oil Companies, 2007-2011

Periods of rising oil prices can result in reduced economic growth, rising prices, and reduced disposable incomes for consumers, as well as a deteriorating trade balance. For the oil industry, periods of high oil prices generally imply increasing cash flows and higher profits. While some view the improvement in the industries’ finances under these conditions as a business return no different than those earned in other industries, others view it as a windfall, a direct transfer from consumers, without any significant additional activity attributable to the industry. Although the U.S. oil...

Health Insurance Coverage of Children, 2010

In 2010, 90% of children had health insurance coverage in the United States, and 10% of children were uninsured. Among children with coverage, private health insurance, including employer-sponsored insurance and nongroup insurance, was the predominant source of coverage, followed by public coverage, including Medicaid and other means-tested public programs (e.g., the State Children’s Health Insurance Program—CHIP), as well as Medicare and military health care.

These estimates, and the estimates detailed in this report, are from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Annual Social and Economic Supplement...

Contract Liability Arising from the Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA) of 1982

Almost 30 years ago, Congress addressed growing concerns regarding nuclear waste management by calling for the federal collection of spent nuclear fuel (SNF) and high-level waste for safe, permanent disposal. To this end, the Department of Energy (DOE) was authorized by the Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA) to enter into contracts with nuclear power providers to gather and dispose of the provider’s SNF in exchange for payments into the statutorily established Nuclear Waste Fund (NWF). Under the terms of the NWPA, these contracts were to require that the federal government begin disposal of...

Health-Related Revenue Provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA)

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA; P.L. 111-148 as amended) will, among other things, raise revenues to pay for expanded health insurance coverage. According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, these health-related provisions are projected to increase federal revenues by about $392 billion over 10 years.

The majority (64%) of the health-related revenues will come from individuals, largely from taxes imposed on higher income tax filers though the Medicare payroll tax and adding an additional tax on net investment income. A much smaller share of revenues derived from...

Tax Benefits for Health Insurance and Expenses: Overview of Current Law

How tax policy affects health insurance and health care spending is a perennial subject of discussion in Washington. The issue is prompted by the size of the tax benefits, by their effect on the cost and allocation of health care resources, and by interest in comprehensive tax reform.

Current law contains significant tax benefits for health insurance and expenses. By far the largest is the exclusion for employer-paid coverage, which employees may omit from their individual income taxes. The exclusion also applies to employment taxes and to health benefits in cafeteria plans. (The exclusion...

EPA’s Utility MACT: Will the Lights Go Out?

On December 21, 2011, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announced final standards aimed at reducing mercury and other air toxics emissions from electric generating units (EGUs) by about 90%. The rule, commonly referred to as the “Utility MACT” or the “Mercury and Air Toxics Standards” (MATS), has been more than a decade in the making (Congress authorized the standards in the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments), and it is among the most expensive rules that EPA has ever promulgated. EPA estimates the annualized cost at $9.6 billion in 2015. Industry estimates have been higher.

The benefits are...

Sexual Harassment: Developments in Federal Law

Gender-based discrimination, sexual harassment, and violence against women in the workplace, schools, and society at large are continuing topics of legislative and judicial concern. Legal doctrines condemning the extortion of sexual favors as a condition of employment or job advancement and other sexually offensive workplace behaviors resulting in a “hostile environment” have evolved from judicial decisions under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and other federal equal employment opportunity laws. The earlier judicial focus on economic detriment or quid pro quo harassment—that is,...

Federal Aid to Roads and Highways Since the 18th Century: A Legislative History

The federal government has provided aid for roads and highways since the establishment of the United States in 1789. This report comprises a brief history of such aid, detailing some precedent setters and more recent funding through the Highway Trust Fund, which was created in 1956.

Mental Health Parity and Mandated Coverage of Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Services After the ACA

Two important components of access to mental health and substance use disorder services are their insurance coverage and the terms under which they are covered. Federal mental health parity law addresses the terms under which mental health and substance use disorder services are covered in comparison with medical and surgical services in those plans that choose to offer coverage of these services. Federal law requires parity in annual and aggregate lifetime limits, treatment limitations, financial requirements, and in- and out-of-network covered benefits. However, federal parity law does...

Social Security Retirement Earnings Test: How Earnings Affect Benefits

Under the Social Security Retirement Earnings Test (RET), the monthly benefit of a Social Security beneficiary who is below full retirement age (FRA) is reduced if he or she has earnings that exceed an annual threshold. In 2012, a beneficiary who is below FRA and will not attain FRA during the year is subject to a $1 reduction in benefits for each $2 of earnings above $14,640. A beneficiary who will attain FRA in 2012 is subject to a $1 reduction in benefits for each $3 of earnings above $38,880. The annual exempt amounts ($14,640 and $38,880 in 2012) generally are adjusted each year...

Warrantless Seizures in Forfeiture Cases: Due Process and Alvarez v. Smith in the Supreme Court

Alvarez v. Smith became moot while pending before the United States Supreme Court. At the time, the Court had agreed to decide whether a six-month delay between a state’s seizure of property and its forfeiture hearing requires additional procedural safeguards. Traditionally, forfeiture hearing delays have been judged by the speedy trial standards of Barker v. Wingo. The Court had been asked to decide whether they should instead be judged by the general due process standards of Mathews v. Eldridge.

Alvarez v. Smith arose in Chicago where a group of property owners filed a civil rights class...

U.S. Fossil Fuel Resources: Terminology, Reporting, and Summary

Discussions of U.S. and global energy supply refer to oil, natural gas, and coal using several terms that may be unfamiliar to some. The terms used to describe different types of fossil fuels have technically precise definitions, and misunderstanding or misuse of these terms may lead to errors and confusion in estimating energy available or making comparisons among fuels, regions, or nations.

Fossil fuels are categorized, classified, and named using a number of variables. Naturally occurring deposits of any material, whether it is fossil fuels, gold, or timber, comprise a broad spectrum...

Tax Gap: Misclassification of Employees as Independent Contractors

The misclassification of employees as independent contractors contributes to the tax gap. Consequently, congressional interest has been expressed about the importance of the proper classification of workers. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) defines the gross tax gap as the difference between the aggregate tax liability imposed by law for a given tax year and the amount of tax that taxpayers pay voluntarily and timely for that year.

A business owner must withhold income taxes, withhold and pay Social Security and Medicare taxes, and pay unemployment tax on wages paid to an employee. In...

The Proposed AT&T/T-Mobile Merger: Would It Create a Virtuous Cycle or a Vicious Cycle?

In March 2011, AT&T announced an agreement to acquire T-Mobile USA (T-Mobile) from Deutsche Telekom for $25 billion in cash and $14 billion in AT&T stock, subject to the approval of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Post-merger, Deutsche Telekom (DT) would own approximately 8% of AT&T’s stock. AT&T is the second-largest mobile wireless service provider in the United States; T-Mobile is the fourth-largest. The combined company would be the largest mobile wireless service provider. Under the terms of the agreement, if the merger is not...

U.S. Arms Sales: Agreements with and Deliveries to Major Clients, 2003-2010

This report provides background data on U.S. arms sales agreements with and deliveries to its major purchasers during calendar years 2003-2010, made through the U.S. Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program. In a series of data tables, it lists the total dollar values of U.S. government-to-government arms sales agreements with its top five purchasers, and the total dollar values of U.S. arms deliveries to those purchasers, in five specific regions of the world for three specific periods: 2003-2006, 2007-2010, and 2010 alone. In addition, the report provides data tables listing the total dollar...

Contested Election Cases in the House of Representatives: 1933 to 2011

From 1933 to 2011 (the 73rd Congress through the 112th Congress), the U.S. House of Representatives considered 107 contested election cases. The vast majority of these cases were resolved in favor of the contestee, a term referring to a Member or Member-elect of the House of Representatives whose election was challenged. The term contestant refers to an individual who challenged the election of a Member-elect of the House of Representatives.

It appears that of the 107 contested election cases considered by the House since 1933, in at least three cases, the House ultimately seated the...

Reasons for the Decline in Corporate Tax Revenues

Corporate tax revenues have declined over the last six decades. In the post-World War II era, corporate tax revenue as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) peaked in 1952 at 6.1%. Today, the corporate tax generates revenue equal to approximately 1.3% of GDP. The corporate tax has also decreased in importance relative to other revenue sources. At its post-WWII peak in 1952, the corporate tax generated 32.1% of all federal tax revenue. In that same year the individual tax accounted for 42.2% of federal revenue, and the payroll tax accounted for 9.7% of revenue. Today, the corporate...

Iraq Casualties: U.S. Military Forces and Iraqi Civilians, Police, and Security Forces

This report presents U.S. military casualties in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation New Dawn (OND) as well as governmental and nongovernmental estimates of Iraqi civilian, police, and security forces casualties.

For several years, there were few estimates from any national or international government source regarding Iraqi civilian, police, and security forces casualties. Now, however, United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) is reporting civilian casualty estimates. In addition, several Iraqi ministries have released monthly or total casualty statistics.

Nongovernmental...

Illegal Internet Streaming of Copyrighted Content: Legislation in the 112th Congress

Technological developments related to the Internet benefit consumers who want convenient ways to view and hear information and entertainment content on a variety of electronic devices. New technologies offer the potential to help copyright holders promote their creative works for artistic, educational, and commercial reasons. However, new technologies may increase the risk of infringement of the copyright holders’ rights because they often provide faster, cheaper, and easier means of engaging in unauthorized reproduction, distribution, and public performance of copyrighted works than...

Proposals to Reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the 112th Congress

As households and taxpayers, Americans have a large stake in the future of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Homeowners and potential homeowners indirectly depend on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which in recent years backed and guaranteed home loans accounting for nearly half of the outstanding home mortgages in the nation.

Taxpayers have a large investment in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The Department of the Treasury kept the two insolvent companies in business by providing more than $175 billion in support. Based on past performance, it is not clear how the enterprises will be able to repay...

Medicaid and CHIP Maintenance of Effort (MOE): Requirements and Responses

State revenues declined during the recent economic recession (December 2007 through June 2009) and have not fully recovered. At the same time, the recession increased the number of individuals meeting Medicaid’s income eligibility standards. States are faced with tough decisions about where to direct their increasingly limited funds.

This state fiscal condition is a reason the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA, P.L. 111-5; and subsequently extended in P.L. 111-226) included a temporary increase to Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) rates. As a condition of the...

Cuba’s Offshore Oil Development: Background and U.S. Policy Considerations

Cuba is moving toward development of its offshore oil resources. While the country has proven oil reserves of just 0.1 billion barrels, the U.S. Geological Survey estimates that offshore reserves in the North Cuba Basin could contain an additional 4.6 billion barrels of undiscovered technically recoverable crude oil. The Spanish oil company Repsol, in a consortium with Norway’s Statoil and India’s Oil and Natural Gas Corporation, is expected to begin offshore exploratory drilling in early 2012, and several other companies are considering such drilling. At present, Cuba has six offshore...

International Climate Change: What to Expect at the Durban Conference, December 2011

Delegations from more than 190 countries and regions meet from November 28 to December 9, 2011, in Durban, South Africa, to continue discussions of how to address climate change under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The year 2012 will mark both the 20th anniversary of the opening for signature of the UNFCCC in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and the end of the first “commitment period” (2008-2012) of the UNFCCC’s subsidiary Kyoto Protocol.

In 2010, the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UNFCCC adopted a set of decisions referred to as the “Cancun...

Olmstead v. L.C.: Judicial and Legislative Developments in the Law of Deinstitutionalization

The Supreme Court ruled in Olmstead v. L.C., 527 U.S. 581 (1999), that, under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and its implementing regulations, states must transfer individuals with mental disabilities into non-institutional settings when: a state treatment professional has determined such an environment is appropriate; the community placement is not opposed by the individual with a disability; and the placement can be reasonably accommodated. In subsequent litigation, appellate courts have (1) rejected interpretations of Olmstead that would make it more difficult to...

Market Dynamics That May Have Contributed to Solyndra’s Bankruptcy

Solyndra Solar Loan guarantee Section 1705 solar modules polysilicon photovoltaics PV DOE subsidies bankruptcy

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Meetings in Honolulu: A Preview

The United States will host the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation’s (APEC’s) 19th Economic Leaders’ Meeting in Honolulu, HI, on November 12 & 13, 2011. APEC was founded in 1989 to facilitate trade and investment liberalization in the Asia-Pacific region. During the four days prior to the Economic Leaders’ Meeting, APEC will hold the fourth Senior Officials Meeting for 2011, the Finance Ministers Meeting, and the APEC Ministerial Meeting. President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner, and U.S Trade Representative Ron Kirk are expected...

Universal Service Fund: Background and Options for Reform

The concept that all Americans should be able to afford access to the telecommunications network, commonly called the “universal service concept” can trace its origins back to the 1934 Communications Act. Since then, the preservation and advancement of universal service has been a basic tenet of federal communications policy, and Congress has historically played an active role in helping to preserve and advance universal service goals. The passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (P.L. 104-104) not only codified the universal service concept, but also led to the establishment, in...

EPA’s Proposal to Regulate Coal Combustion Waste Disposal: Issues for Congress

Coal combustion waste (CCW) is inorganic material that remains after pulverized coal is burned for electricity production. A tremendous amount of the material is generated each year—industry estimates that approximately 135 million tons were generated in 2009. On December 22, 2008, national attention was turned to issues regarding the waste when a breach in an impoundment pond at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA’s) Kingston, TN, power plant released 1.1 billion gallons of coal ash slurry. The cleanup cost has been estimated to reach $1.2 billion.

While the incident at Kingston drew...

The National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act and Preemption: An Overview of Bruesewitz v. Wyeth

While recent scientific publications have declared that there appears to be no link between immunizations and autism or other serious medical problems, a recent Journal of Pediatrics survey of parents with children between the ages of six months and six years old reveals that about 13% of parents used a vaccination plan that varied from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-recommended schedule, because of concerns that receiving multiple vaccinations in a short span of time is less safe than delaying certain vaccines. Whether parents follow the government-recommended schedule or...

Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: The Fate of the Oil

The April 20, 2010, explosion of the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig led to the largest oil spill in U.S. waters. Federal government officials estimated that the deepwater well ultimately released (over 84 days) over 200 million gallons (or 4.9 million barrels) of crude oil. Although decreasing amounts of oil were observed on the ocean surface following the well’s containment on July 15, 2010, oil spill response officials and researchers have found oil in other places. A pressing question that has been raised by many stakeholders is where did the oil go?

On August 4, 2010, the...

Reducing the Budget Deficit: Tax Policy Options

Tax reform and deficit reduction are two issues being considered by the 112th Congress. In recent months, a number of groups have published various plans for tackling the nation’s growing deficits. On September 19, 2011, President Obama submitted recommendations to the Joint Select Committee for Deficit Reduction.

This report analyzes various revenue options for deficit reduction, highlighting proposals made by the President’s Fiscal Commission, the Debt Reduction Task Force, and the President’s proposal. Others, such as House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan and the Obama...

Tests and Testing Accommodations Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Tests and examinations are widely used to decide whether a person is qualified to take up a particular occupation, advance professionally, or attend a certain educational institution. These tests can pose unique challenges to individuals with disabilities. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), an entity that offers an exam without providing accommodations to examinees with disabilities may be liable for disability-based discrimination.

The ADA applies to both public and private educational and employment-related testing, and Section 309 of the ADA requires persons offering...

The Confrontation Clause After Michigan v. Bryant and Bullcoming v. New Mexico

The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution includes the guarantee that “[i]n all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right ... to be confronted with the witnesses against him.”

Historically, the U.S. Supreme Court interpreted the Confrontation Clause as being more or less compatible with evidentiary rules governing out-of-court statements. In 1979, in Ohio v. Roberts, 448 U.S. 56, the Court expressed the view that evidence that fit within a hearsay exception or had analogous “particularized guarantees of trustworthiness” would also “comport with the substance” of...

The Fair Labor Standards Act, Overtime Compensation, and Personal Data Assistants

The increased use of personal data assistants (PDAs) and smartphones by employees outside of a traditional work schedule has raised questions about whether such use may be compensable under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). As PDAs and smartphones provide employees with mobile access to work email, clients, and co-workers, as well as the ability to create and edit documents outside of the workplace, it may be possible to argue that employees who are not exempt from the FLSA’s requirements and who perform work-related activities with these devices should receive overtime if such...

Intent Standard for Induced Patent Infringement: Global-Tech Appliances, Inc. v. SEB S.A.

While Section 271(a) of the Patent Act (35 U.S.C. § 271(a)) creates liability for someone who directly infringes a patent (by the unauthorized use of a patented invention), Section 271(b) of the act provides indirect infringement liability for someone who “actively induces” another party to engage in infringing activities. “Inducement” is a theory of indirect patent infringement, in which a party causes, encourages, influences, or aids and abets another’s direct infringement of a patent. In Global-Tech Appliances, Inc. v. SEB S.A., the question was the legal standard for the mental state...

Homestead Exemptions in Bankruptcy After the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 (BAPCPA)

When debtors file for bankruptcy protection under Title 11 of the U.S. Code, they may exempt the value of certain property; in many cases, this includes their homestead. In practical terms, to the extent that the property’s value does not exceed the allowed exemption amount, the debtor may keep the property rather than its becoming part of the bankruptcy estate and thereby being available to satisfy creditors. The Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 (BAPCPA) introduced additional limitations on the extent to which debtors could exempt value in their residences...

The V-Chip and TV Ratings: Monitoring Children’s Access to TV Programming

To assist parents in supervising the television viewing habits of their children, the Communications Act of 1934 (as amended by the Telecommunications Act of 1996) requires that, as of January 1, 2000, new television sets with screens 13 inches or larger sold in the United States be equipped with a “V-chip” to control access to programming that parents find objectionable. Use of the V-chip is optional. In March 1998, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted the industry-developed ratings system to be used in conjunction with the V-chip. Congress and the FCC have continued...

The Role of Federal Gasoline Excise Taxes in Public Policy

American drivers, compared to those in industrialized nations in Europe, pay relatively low federal, state, and local gasoline and diesel excise taxes. The federal taxes are used specifically to fund annual highway construction, maintenance, and mass transit. Over the years, proposals have come forth to raise the federal tax as a way to address long-standing national policy concerns, including U.S. dependence on imported oil and various environmental problems related to large volumes of gasoline consumption. The current federal gasoline tax legislation is set to expire on September 30,...

Common-Law Climate Change Litigation After American Electric Power v. Connecticut

Note: Despite this report being archived, the reader may find updated treatment of the topics covered herein in CRS Report R42613, Climate Change and Existing Law: A Survey of Legal Issues Past, Present, and Future, by Robert Meltz. See especially sections I, II.H., and III.A.

Congressional inaction on climate change has led concerned parties to explore other ways to address climate change—including lawsuits seeking to establish climate change impacts as a common law nuisance. The prospects for these common law suits are limited, however, owing in part to the unsuitability of private...

Iraq: Map Sources

This report identifies online sources for maps of Iraq, including government, library, and organizational websites. These sources have been selected on the basis of their authoritativeness and the range, quality, and uniqueness of the maps they provide. Some sources provide up-to-the-minute maps; others have been selected for their collection of historical maps. Maps of Iraq, the Middle East, significant security incidents in Iraq, and refugees returning to Iraq have been provided. This report will be updated as needed.

Upcoming Rules Pursuant to the Dodd-Frank Act: Spring 2011 Unified Agenda

Congress delegates rulemaking authority to agencies for a variety of reasons, and in a variety of ways. The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (P.L. 111-203, July 21, 2010; hereafter the “Dodd-Frank Act”) is a particularly noteworthy example of congressional delegation of rulemaking authority to federal agencies. A previous CRS report identified more than 300 provisions in the act that require or permit the issuance of rules to implement the legislation.

One way for Congress to identify upcoming Dodd-Frank Act rules is by reviewing the Unified Agenda of Federal...

Supplemental Security Income (SSI): Accounts Not Counted As Resources

As a means tested program, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) places a limit on the assets or resources of its beneficiaries. However, there are four types of accounts that can be used by SSI beneficiaries for specific purposes without affecting their SSI eligibility. Money placed into burial accounts, money used as part of a Plan for Achieving Self-Support (PASS), money placed in Individual Development Accounts (IDAs), and money placed in dedicated accounts for children are not counted as resources for the purposes of determining SSI eligibility. These accounts can be used by SSI...

Standard & Poor’s Downgrade of U.S. Government Long-Term Debt

On August 5, 2011, Standard & Poor’s (S&P) lowered the credit rating of long-term U.S. government debt from AAA (the highest possible rating) to AA+. The downgrade reflects S&P’s judgment that (1) the recent Budget Control Act (P.L. 112-25) falls short of what is needed to stabilize the government’s fiscal situation and (2) the capacity of Congress and the Administration to deal with the debt has become less stable, effective, and predictable.

A ratings downgrade is meant to signal the market that an issuer of bonds or other debt securities is less likely to repay interest or principal. In...

Recent Developments in Patent Administration: Implications for Innovation Policy

Congressional interest in the operation of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has been demonstrated by extensive discussion of patent reform proposals that would impact that agency. An increasing number of patent applications filed each year, the growing complexity of cutting edge technology, and heightened user demands for prompt and accurate patent services are among the challenges faced by the USPTO. Stakeholders have expressed concern over the agency’s large backlog of patent applications that have been filed but have yet to receive examiner review. Others have expressed...

The Supreme Court Decision in Microsoft v. i4i: Implications for Innovation Policy

The June 9, 2011, decision of the United States Supreme Court in Microsoft Corp. v. i4i Limited Partnership et al. rained current legal standards by holding that patents must be proved invalid by “clear and convincing evidence.” The Court explicitly rejected the argument that the “preponderance of the evidence” standard, which would have made patents more vulnerable to challenge, applied in this situation. The decision arguably holds a number of potential implications for U.S. innovation policy, including incentives to innovate, invest, and assert patents, and leaves the question of the...

Statutory Limits on Total Spending as a Method of Budget Control

Often when there is dissatisfaction with budgetary levels, budget process reforms are proposed to mandate a specific budgetary policy or fiscal objective. This report focuses specifically on one such budget process reform—the concept of creating a statutory limit on total spending.

As discussed in this report, a total spending limit consists of statutory long-term or permanent limits on federal spending coupled with a statutory enforcement mechanism that would make automatic reductions in spending in the event that compliance with the limits is not achieved through legislative action. Such...

Social Security: Mandatory Coverage of New State and Local Government Employees

Social Security covers about 94% of all workers in the United States. Most of the remaining 6% of non-covered workers are public employees. About one-fourth of state and local government employees are not covered by Social Security for various historical and other reasons. The 1935 Social Security Act did not extend coverage to state and local government workers. Since the 1950s, Congress has passed laws to allow state and local government employees who have public pensions to elect Social Security coverage through employee referendums. In 1990, Congress made Social Security coverage...

The UNESCO World Heritage Convention: Congressional Issues

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (the World Heritage Convention) identifies and helps protect international sites of such exceptional ecological, scientific, or cultural importance that their preservation is considered a global responsibility. Under the Convention, which entered into force in 1975, participating countries nominate sites to be included on the World Heritage List and the List of World Heritage in Danger (Danger List). Countries that are party to the...

Health Care Providers’ Religious Objections to Medical Treatment: Legal Issues Related to Religious Discrimination in Employment and Conscience Clause Provisions

Federal law provides various legal protections for individuals who object for religious reasons to performing certain tasks required by their employer. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and statutory nondiscrimination laws provide general protection to individuals wishing to exercise their religious beliefs without interference from the government or employers. An individual’s right of refusal may also be protected by specific legislation known as “conscience clauses.” These protections often arise with health care providers, including doctors and pharmacists, who object to...

Medicaid Reimbursement Rate Litigation: An Overview of Douglas v. Independent Living Center of Southern California

Given declining state revenues and increased demand for public programs like Medicaid, states have been faced with difficult choices about how to allocate limited funds. To address budget shortfalls, many states have sought to shrink their Medicaid costs in various ways, including reducing the rates at which health care providers are reimbursed for the services they provide to Medicaid beneficiaries. In several instances, providers and others have argued that the reduced rates do not comply with federal Medicaid requirements and have turned to the courts to challenge these reductions....

Repayment of the Homebuyer Tax Credit After Destruction of the Property or Other Involuntary Conversion

Taxpayers who purchased a principal residence in 2008-2010 (and in some cases, 2011) may have qualified for a tax credit under Section 36 of the Internal Revenue Code—the first-time homebuyer credit. This credit was amended several times with changes being made to the amount of the credit, the requirements for qualifying for the credit, and the requirements for repaying the credit. These details are available in CRS Report RL34664, The First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit, by Carol A. Pettit.

Generally, taxpayers claiming the credit based on a 2008 credit are required to repay the credit over a...

The Mortgage Interest and Property Tax Deductions: Brief Overview with Revenue Estimates

Concern has increased over the size and sustainability of the United States’ recent budget deficits and the country’s long-run budget outlook. This concern has brought the issues of the government’s revenue needs and fundamental tax reform to the forefront of congressional debates. Congress may choose to address these issues by reforming the set of tax benefits for homeowners. According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, federally provided tax benefits for homeowners will cost approximately $140.1 billion annually between 2010 and 2014. Reducing, modifying, or eliminating all or some of...

Real Earnings, Health Insurance and Pension Coverage, and the Distribution of Earnings, 1979-2009

This report analyzes the real weekly earnings from 1979 to 2009 of U.S. workers, including worker pay and fringe benefits, such as employer contributions for health insurance or to a retirement plan.

Social Security Benefits Are Not Paid for the Month of Death

Social Security benefits are not paid for the month in which a beneficiary dies. In most cases, the check that an individual receives in a given month represents payment for the preceding month. In other words, by design, the check (or direct bank deposit) arrives after the month for which it applies. In cases where a beneficiary dies late in the month, the Social Security Administration often is not notified of the death in time to stop the payment. When family members are informed that the check must be returned, they often complain that the policy is unfair and creates a financial...

Statutory Budget Controls in Effect Between 1985 and 2002

Between 1985 and 2002, several statutory budget controls were enacted to reduce the budget deficit. Chief among these were the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985 and the Budget Enforcement Act of 1990. The mechanisms included in these acts sought to supplement and modify the existing budget process, and also added statutory budget controls, in some cases seeking to require future deficit reduction legislation, and in some cases seeking to preserve deficit reduction achieved in accompanying legislation.

The Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985,...

The Liability Risk Retention Act: Background, Issues, and Current Legislation

Risk retention groups (RRGs) and risk purchasing groups (RPGs) are alternative insurance entities authorized by Congress to expand insurance supply through a simplification of insurance regulation. The McCarran-Ferguson Act of 1945 generally leaves the regulation and taxation of the business of insurance to the individual states. In 1981 and 1986, however, Congress crafted a narrow exception to the usual state insurance regulations for these groups, generally exempting them from multiple state oversight. Membership in risk retention and purchasing groups is limited to commercial...

Disposal of Unneeded Federal Buildings: Legislative Proposals in the 112th Congress

Federal executive branch agencies hold an extensive real property portfolio that includes 429,000 buildings. These assets have been acquired over a period of decades to help agencies fulfill their diverse missions. Agencies hold buildings with a range of uses, including offices, health clinics, warehouses, and laboratories. As agencies’ missions change over time, so, too, do their real property needs, thereby rendering some assets less useful or unneeded altogether. Healthcare provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), for example, has shifted in recent decades from predominately...

Financial Aid for Students: Print and Web Guides

Warrantless, Police-Triggered Exigent Searches: Kentucky v. King in the Supreme Court

Authorities may enter and search a home without a warrant if they have probable cause and reason to believe that evidence is being destroyed within the home. So declared the United States Supreme Court in an 8-1 decision, Kentucky v. King, 131 S.Ct. 1849 (2011)(No. 09-1272).

The Kentucky Supreme Court had overturned King’s conviction for marijuana possession and drug dealing, because the evidence upon which it was based had been secured following a warrantless search which failed to conform with that court’s restrictions under its “police-created exigencies” doctrine.

The Fourth Amendment...

The Donor-Donee State Issue in Highway Finance

Few issues in federal highway finance have raised such heated debate as how closely each state’s federal highway grants should match its highway users’ payments to the Highway Trust Fund (HTF). This “donor-donee” state issue has been contentious during every reauthorization of federal surface transportation programs since 1982. It has again emerged during the congressional debate over reauthorization of the current highway funding program, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: a Legacy for Users (SAFETEA; P.L. 109-59), which has been extended through...

Electronic Voting System in the House of Representatives: History and Usage

On January 23, 1973, 87 years after the first legislative proposal to use an automated system to record votes was introduced, the House of Representatives used its electronic voting system for the first time. The concept of automated voting dates back even farther to 1869, when Thomas Edison filed a patent for a vote recorder and demonstrated the system to Congress. Between the first legislative proposal for automated voting in 1886, and the passage of the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1970, which contained language authorizing an electronic voting system, 51 bills and resolutions were...

An Analysis of State Formula Grants for Dislocated Worker Activities Under Title I of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA)

The Workforce Investment Act (WIA), enacted in 1998, is the federal government’s primary employment and job training legislation. Title I of WIA—Workforce Investment Systems—authorizes job training and related services to unemployed or underemployed individuals. Funds authorized under Title I, Subtitle B of WIA are allocated to states by formula and are used for workforce development activities.

This report analyzes the current allocation formula for one of the three Title I formula grant programs—the dislocated worker program, which is the largest of the three Title I grant programs with...

Indian Reserved Water Rights Under the Winters Doctrine: An Overview

Although the federal government has authority to regulate water, it typically defers to the states to allocate water resources within the state. The federal government maintains certain federal water rights, though, which exist separate from state law. In particular, federal reserved water rights often arise in questions of water allocation related to federal lands, including Indian reservations. Indian reserved water rights were first recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court in Winters v. United States in 1908. Under the Winters doctrine, when Congress reserves land (i.e., for an Indian...

Economic Development Administration: A Review of Elements of Its Statutory History

As the 112th Congress considers legislation reauthorizing the Public Works and Economic Development Act of 1965 (PWEDA; P.L. 89-136), which created the Economic Development Administration (EDA) and its programs, the PWEDA’s statutory evolution may inform Congress in its deliberation. In reviewing the evolution of the PWEDA’s statutory authority, several observations are worth making:

Congress has consistently used unemployment as the primary criterion to determine eligibility for EDA assistance, but it has authorized the inclusion of other criteria, resulting in up to 80% of counties being...

Japan 2011 Earthquake: U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) Response

Japan 2011 Earthquake: U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) Response Disaster U.S. military Tsunami Nuclear Self Defense Force U.S. bases Navy, army, marines, air force Relief Humanitarian USS Ronald Reagan, aircraft carrier group

Crimes of Violence Committed Against Federal Officials or Employees: A Brief Overview of Federal Criminal Law

Dozens of federal statutes outlaw homicide, assault, and threats under varying jurisdictional circumstances. Those which appear most relevant to tragic events in Tucson, AZ, are identified in abbreviated form here.

Murder or Attempted Murder of a Member of Congress and Other Federal Officials and Employees: Implications in Federal Criminal Law and Procedure of Events in Tucson

Jared Lee Loughner was arrested for the attempted murder of Representative Gabrielle Giffords, the murder of United States District Court Judge John Roll, and the murder or attempted murder of several federal employees. The arrest brings several features of federal law to the fore.

Federal crimes of violence are usually violations of the law of the state where they occur; an offender may be tried in either federal or state court or both. Ordinarily, federal crimes must be tried where they occur, but in extraordinary cases a defendant’s motion for a change of venue may be granted. In...

The Motor Vehicle Supply Chain: Effects of the Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami

The March 2011 Great Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami devastated the northeast coast of Japan with the most powerful natural disaster in Japan’s modern history. Compounding the challenge for Japanese government, businesses, and communities was the resulting destruction of several nuclear reactors in the region which supplied electricity for homes and industry. Not only was electricity unavailable, but a large area was temporarily evacuated, making rapid reopening of affected industries impossible.

Located in the disaster region and adversely affected by these forces are a number of...

Clean Air After the CAIR Decision: Multi-Pollutant Approaches to Controlling Powerplant Emissions

On August 2, 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a new Clean Air Transport Rule to control powerplant emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx). When finalized, this rule will replace the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR); CAIR, which was promulgated in May 2005, established a regional cap-and-trade program for SO2 and NOx emissions from electric generating units (EGUs) in 28 eastern states and the District of Columbia. On July 11, 2008, in North Carolina v. EPA, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit vacated CAIR, saying that it had “more than...

FEMA's Disaster Declaration Process: A Primer

The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (referred to as the Stafford Act - 42 U.S.C. 5721 et seq.) authorizes the President to issue "major disaster" or "emergency" declarations before or after catastrophes occur. Emergency declarations trigger aid that protects property, public health, and safety and lessens or averts the threat of an incident becoming a catastrophic event. A major disaster declaration, issued after catastrophes occur, constitutes broader authority for federal agencies to provide supplemental assistance to help state and local governments,...

Limitations on the Secretary of the Treasury’s Authority to Exercise the Powers of the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank Act; P.L. 111-203) substantially overhauled the U.S. financial regulatory system. Title X of the Dodd-Frank Act, the Consumer Financial Protection Act (CFP Act), established the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (CFPB or Bureau) within the Federal Reserve System. The CFP Act alters the consumer financial protection landscape by consolidating regulatory authority and, to a lesser extent, supervisory and enforcement authority in one regulator—the CFPB. The CFP Act empowers the Bureau through: the transfer of...

Geospatial Information and Geographic Information Systems (GIS): An Overview for Congress

Geospatial information is data referenced to a place—a set of geographic coordinates—which can often be gathered, manipulated, and displayed in real time. A Geographic Information System (GIS) is a computer data system capable of capturing, storing, analyzing, and displaying geographically referenced information. The federal government and policy makers increasingly use geospatial information and tools like GIS for producing floodplain maps, conducting the census, mapping foreclosures, congressional redistricting, and responding to natural hazards such as wildfires, earthquakes, and...

Issues Regarding a National Land Parcel Database

The federal government’s efforts to coordinate its geospatial activities, through the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) and the development of the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI), include a strong emphasis on land parcel data. Land parcel databases (or cadastres) describe the rights, interests, and value of property. Ownership of land parcels is an important part of the legal, financial, and real estate system of a society. The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is assigned the role of lead agency coordinating land parcel data for federal lands,...

Debate, Motions, and Other Actions in the Committee of the Whole

The House of Representatives resolves into the Committee of the Whole, a parliamentary device designed to allow greater participation by Members in debate, to consider most major measures. Various rules and procedures govern how and when Members can engage in debate, offer amendments, make motions and requests, and take other actions in the Committee of the Whole. In addition, measures considered in the Committee of the Whole typically are subject to conditions governing debate and amendments that are specified by a special rule or a unanimous consent agreement.

Time during general debate...

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): Statutory Provisions and Recent Legal Issues

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is the major federal statute for the education of children with disabilities. IDEA both authorizes federal funding for special education and related services and, for states that accept these funds, sets out principles under which special education and related services are to be provided. The requirements are detailed, especially when the regulatory interpretations are considered, and have been the subject of numerous judicial decisions. The key concept in IDEA is the requirement for the provision of a free appropriate public education...

Bisphenol A (BPA) in Plastics and Possible Human Health Effects

Bisphenol A (BPA) is used to produce certain types of plastic, in thousands of formulations for myriad products. Products made with these plastics may expose people to small amounts of BPA. The most significant source of public exposure is thought to be through food, although other ubiquitous products such as thermal paper coatings, and for some individuals medical devices, such as feeding and breathing tubes, also may contribute significantly to human exposure. Some studies have found that fetal and infant development may be harmed by very small amounts of BPA, but scientists disagree...

“Dear Colleague” Letters: Current Practices

“Dear Colleague” letters are correspondence signed by Members of Congress and distributed to their colleagues. Such correspondence is often used by one or more Members to persuade others to cosponsor, support, or oppose a bill. “Dear Colleague” letters also inform Members about new or modified congressional operations or about events connected to congressional business. A Member or group of Members might send a “Dear Colleague” letter to all of their colleagues in a chamber, to Members of the other chamber, or to a subset of Members, such as all Democrats or Republicans. The use of the...

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): Selected Judicial Developments Following the 2004 Reauthorization

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is the major federal statute for the education of children with disabilities. IDEA both authorizes federal funding for special education and related services and, for states that accept these funds, sets out principles under which special education and related services are to be provided. The cornerstone of IDEA is the principle that states and school districts make available a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to all children with disabilities. IDEA has been the subject of numerous reauthorizations; the most recent...

1099 Information Reporting Requirements and Penalties: Recent Legislative Activity

Taxpayers are seen as more likely to report items of income on their tax returns if they know that a third party has reported it to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS); if follows, therefore, that expanding information reporting requirements under the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) can improve the collection of federal tax revenue. However, as those requirements are expanded, those who must comply with the requirements generally will face an increased administrative burden. This tension between the desire to improve tax compliance and the concomitant burden imposed on taxpayers was recently...

Lobbying Registration and Disclosure: Before and After the Enactment of the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007

On September 14, 2007, President George W. Bush signed S. 1, the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007 (P.L. 110-81), into law. The Honest Leadership and Open Government Act (HLOGA) amended the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA) of 1995 (P.L. 104-65, as amended) to provide, among other changes to federal law and House and Senate rules, additional and more frequent disclosure of lobbying contacts and activities. This report focuses on changes made to lobbying registration, termination, and disclosure requirements and provides analysis of the volume of registration, termination, and...

Overview of Health Care Changes in the FY2012 Budget Offered by House Budget Committee Chairman Ryan

On April 5, 2011, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan released the Chairman’s mark of the FY2012 House budget resolution together with his report entitled “The Path to Prosperity: Restoring America’s Promise,” which outlines his budgetary objectives. On the same day, CBO issued an analysis of the long-term budgetary impact of Chairman Ryan’s budget proposal based on specifications provided by House Budget Committee staff. The House Budget Committee considered and amended the Chairman’s mark on April 6, 2011, and voted to report the budget resolution to the full House. H.Con.Res. 34...

Child Support Enforcement and Driver’s License Suspension Policies

The Child Support Enforcement (CSE) program is a federal-state program whose mission is to enhance the well-being of children by helping custodial parents obtain financial support for their children from the noncustodial parent. Child support payments enable parents who do not live with their children to fulfill their financial responsibility to their children by contributing to the payment of childrearing costs. As a condition of receiving federal CSE funds, Congress requires each state to have in effect laws requiring the use of a specified list of collection/enforcement procedures to...

Privacy Protections for Personal Information Online

There is no comprehensive federal privacy statute that protects personal information. Instead, a patchwork of federal laws and regulations govern the collection and disclosure of personal information and has been addressed by Congress on a sector-by-sector basis. Federal laws and regulations extend protection to consumer credit reports, electronic communications, federal agency records, education records, bank records, cable subscriber information, video rental records, motor vehicle records, health information, telecommunications subscriber information, children’s online information, and...

Locally Operated Levees: Issues and Federal Programs

Locally operated levees and the federal programs that assist and accredit them are receiving increasing congressional attention. Congressional authorization of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), expires on September 30, 2011. The pending reauthorization has increased congressional awareness of the link between the condition of locally operated levees, FEMA’s Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) and levee accreditation (which determine which NFIP requirements and premiums apply in an area), and programs providing federal...

Duty to Disclose to Shareholders: Matrixx Initiatives v. Siracusano

On January 10, 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case Matrixx Initiatives v. Siracusano. The question presented was whether a plaintiff can state a claim under Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Rule 10b-5 based upon a pharmaceutical company’s nondisclosure of adverse event reports, despite the lack of an allegation that the reports are statistically significant. On March 22, 2011, the Court unanimously held that the plaintiffs in this case had stated a claim under Section 10(b) and rule 10b-5.

The case was first...

The ADA Amendments Act Definition of Disability: Final EEOC Regulations

The ADA Amendment Act (ADAAA), P.L. 110-325, was enacted in 2008 to amend the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) definition of disability. On March 25, 2011, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued final regulations implementing the ADAAA. The final regulations track the statutory language of the ADA but also provide several clarifying interpretations. Several of the major regulatory interpretations are, including the operation of major bodily functions in the definition of major life activities; adding rules of construction for when an impairment substantially limits...

District of Columbia Representation: Effect on House Apportionment

Two proposals (H.R. 157/S. 160, District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act of 2009) were introduced in the 111th Congress to provide for voting representation in the U.S. House of Representatives for the residents of the District of Columbia (DC). H.R. 157/S. 160, for purposes of voting representation, treated the District of Columbia as if it were a state, giving a House seat to the District, but restricting it to a single seat under any future apportionments. The bills also increased the size of the House to 437 members from 435, and gave the additional seat to the state that would...

“State Representation” in Appointments to Federal Circuit Courts

When a seat becomes vacant on a federal court of appeals (the “circuit courts”), the President has the opportunity to nominate a new judge for the Senate’s consideration. Geography is often a factor in the decision, particularly whether the new judge will be nominated from the same state as the predecessor. One scholar refers to the custom of maintaining state continuity in seats within a court (e.g., a “Missouri seat” or an “Ohio seat”) as “state representation.” Federal statutes currently require that judges “reside” in the circuit at the time of appointment and while in active service,...

Veterans Affairs: The U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims—Judicial Review of VA Decision Making

This report discusses legislation enacted by the 111th Congress to address funding, operations, and benefit appeal procedures within the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veteran Claims (CAVC).

Federal Tax Withholding in 2011: Selected Issues for the 112th Congress

Over the first few weeks of 2011, many employed, self-employed, and retired individuals from the public and private sectors discovered that the amount withheld from their paychecks and pension payments for federal income and employment taxes was larger or smaller than the amount that was withheld in 2010.

This report is intended to help Members of the 112th Congress and their staff respond to questions from constituents about the reasons for the withholding changes. It examines the two main reasons for the changes: the Making Work Pay tax credit (MWPTC) that was available in 2009 and 2010...

Medical Malpractice Liability Reform: Legal Issues and 50-State Surveys on Tort Reform Proposals

Medical malpractice liability is governed by state law, but Congress has the power, under the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution (Art. I, § 8, cl. 3), to enact tort reform laws that would affect actions for medical malpractice liability brought under state law. In the 112th Congress, H.R. 5, the Help Efficient, Accessible, Low-cost, Timely Healthcare (HEALTH) Act was introduced by Representative Phil Gingrey on January 24, 2011, and was marked up on February 9 and 16, 2011, by the House Committee on the Judiciary. This bill would preempt state law with respect to certain aspects of...

Conflicts of Interest in Derivatives Clearing

The financial crisis implicated the over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives market as a source of systemic risk. In the wake of the crisis, lawmakers sought to reduce systemic risk to the financial system by regulating this market. One of the reforms that Congress introduced in the Dodd-Frank Act (P.L. 111-203) was mandatory clearing of OTC derivatives through clearinghouses, in an effort to remake the OTC market more in the image of the regulated futures exchanges. Clearinghouses require traders to put down cash or liquid assets, called margin, to cover potential losses and prevent any firm...

Sergeant at Arms and Doorkeeper of the Senate: Legislative and Administrative Duties

The Sergeant at Arms of the Senate is an officer of the Senate with protection, security, decorum, protocol, and administrative responsibilities. The Sergeant at Arms is elected by the membership of the Senate. As the Senate’s chief law enforcement officer, the Sergeant at Arms is responsible for security in the Senate wing of the Capitol, the Senate office buildings, and on adjacent grounds.

As the chief of protocol of the Senate, the Sergeant at Arms performs ceremonial functions that fall within his jurisdiction through custom and precedent. In carrying out these duties, the Sergeant...

The Americans with Disabilities Act: Legislation Concerning Notification Prior to Initiating Legal Action

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides broad nondiscrimination protection in employment, public services, and public accommodation and services operated by private entities. Since the 106th Congress, legislation has been introduced to require plaintiffs to provide notice to the defendant prior to filing a complaint regarding public accommodations. In the 112th Congress, H.R. 881 was introduced by Representative Hunter to amend Title III of the ADA to require notification.

Puerto Rican Statehood: Effects on House Apportionment

For years, the people of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico have been involved in discussions relating to changing the political status of Puerto Rico from a commonwealth of the United States to either the 51st state or an independent nation, or maintaining the status quo as a commonwealth.

In the 111th Congress, H.R. 2499, introduced by Representative Pedro Pierluisi, would have established procedures to determine Puerto Rico’s political status. It would have authorized a two-stage plebiscite in Puerto Rico to reconsider the status issue. H.R. 2499 was similar to H.R. 900 as introduced in...

Community Development Block Grants: Neighborhood Stabilization Program; Assistance to Communities Affected by Foreclosures

In response to the rising number of home mortgage foreclosures the 110th Congress passed the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 (HERA), P.L. 110-289. Title III (Emergency Assistance for the Redevelopment of Abandoned and Foreclosed Homes) of HERA authorized the creation of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP-1). Using the administrative framework of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, a total of $3.92 billion was allocated to 307 recipients, including all 50 states, Puerto Rico, insular areas, and qualifying local governments. Funds were awarded by formula...

Supreme Court Nominations: Senate Floor Procedure and Practice, 1789-2011

From 1789 through 2009, the President submitted to the Senate 160 nominations for positions on the Supreme Court. Of these nominations, 148 received action on the floor of the Senate, and 124 were confirmed. On August 5, 2010, the Senate confirmed the nomination of Solicitor General Elana Kagan to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, making her the 124th Justice on the Court.

The forms of proceeding by which the Senate considered the 148 nominees to reach the floor break down relatively naturally into five patterns over time. First, from 1789 through about 1834, the Senate...

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): Private Schools

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a grants and civil rights statute which provides federal funding to the states to help provide education for children with disabilities. If a state receives funds under IDEA, it must make available a free, appropriate public education (FAPE) for all children with disabilities in the state. Education for children with disabilities in private schools is included in IDEA, but the requirements of the statute for children in private schools are not always the same as the requirements for children with disabilities in public...

Taxation of Private Equity and Hedge Fund Partnerships: Characterization of Carried Interest

General partners in most private equity and hedge funds are compensated in two ways. First, to the extent that they contribute their capital in the funds, they share in the appreciation of the assets. Second, they charge the limited partners two kinds of annual fees: a percentage of total fund assets (usually in the 1% to 2% range), and a percentage of the fund’s earnings (usually 15% to 25%, once specified benchmarks are met). The latter performance fee is called “carried interest” and is treated, or characterized, as capital gains under current tax rules. In the 112th Congress, the...

International Criminal Court and the Rome Statute: 2010 Review Conference

ICC Review Conference and U.S. Engagement

The International Criminal Court (ICC, or Court) was established in 2002 as the first permanent court to prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide (together, “ICC crimes”). Pursuant to a provision in the Statute of the International Criminal Court (“Rome Statute” or “Statute”), the States Parties to the Rome Statute agreed to review the Court’s activities seven years after its establishment. In compliance with this provision, the States Parties convened a Review Conference in Kampala, Uganda, May 31–June 11, 2010.

After declining...

How Legislation Is Brought to the House Floor: A Snapshot of Recent Parliamentary Practice in the 111th Congress (2009-2010)

The House of Representatives has several different parliamentary procedures through which it can bring legislation to the chamber floor. Which of these will be used in a given situation depends on many factors, including the type of measure being considered, its cost, the amount of political or policy controversy surrounding it, and the degree to which Members want to debate it and propose amendments. This report provides a snapshot of the forms and origins of measures which, according to the Legislative Information System of the U.S. Congress (LIS), received action on the House floor in...

How Local Election Officials View Election Reform: Results of Three National Surveys

Local election officials (LEOs) are critical to the administration of federal elections and the implementation of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA, P.L. 107-252). Three surveys of LEOs were performed by academic institutions in collaboration with the Congressional Research Service. Although care needs to be taken in interpreting the results, they may have implications for several policy issues, such as how election officials are chosen and trained, the best ways to ensure that voting systems and election procedures are sufficiently effective, secure, and voter-friendly, and whether...

Oil and Natural Gas Industry Tax Issues in the FY2012 Budget Proposal

The Obama Administration, in the FY2012 budget proposal, seeks to eliminate certain tax expenditures that benefit the oil and natural gas industries. Supporters of these tax provisions see them as comparable to those affecting other industries and supporting the production of domestic oil and natural gas resources. Opponents of the provisions see these tax provisions as subsidies for a profitable industry the government can ill afford, and impediments to the development of clean energy alternatives.

The FY2012 budget proposal outlines a set of proposals, framed in terms of deficit...

State Assessments Required by the No Child Left Behind Act: An Analysis of Requirements, Funding, and Cost

The Title I-A program of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB; P.L. 107-110), is the largest source of federal funding for elementary and secondary education. States that receive Title I-A funding must comply with certain requirements related to measuring student achievement by using state-level standards and assessments. The standards and assessment requirements adopted in the NCLB have resulted in vast growth in and demand for new types of assessment products. Estimates of annual expenditures on NCLB-required assessments...

Amendments Between the Houses: A Brief Overview

The House and Senate must approve an identical version of a measure before it can be presented for the President’s approval or veto. If the House and Senate approve differing versions of a measure, the differences must first be resolved. One way to do this is through an exchange of amendments between the houses.

When the House or Senate passes a measure, it is sent to the other chamber for further consideration. If the second chamber passes the measure with one or more amendments, it is then sent back to the originating chamber. In modern practice, the second chamber often substitutes its...

Veterans Affairs: Basic Eligibility for Disability Benefit Programs

This report examines the eligibility criteria and the fundamentals of the Department of Veterans Affairs-administered disability benefit programs and related issues. It supplements and condenses the relevant materials that are available from the VA and its website. It also provides specific citations for further information and more in-depth analysis of information contained herein.

Fundraising for Presidential Libraries: Recent Legislative and Policy Issues for Congress

In recent Congresses, some Members have expressed concern about the lack of information surrounding private fundraising for presidential libraries. Those calling for additional regulation argue that more transparency could reduce potential conflicts of interest surrounding library contributions. Contributions from foreign sources have also been the subject of debate.

Federal law and regulation are largely silent on contributions to presidential libraries. Contributions to library fundraising organizations may be unlimited and can come from any otherwise lawful source. In addition,...

Social Security: The Notch Issue

Some Social Security beneficiaries who were born from 1917 to 1921—the so-called notch babies—believe they are not receiving fair Social Security benefits. (The Social Security Administration (SSA) and a 1994 commission on the notch issue define the notch period as 1917 to 1921, though some advocates define the period as 1917 to 1926.) The notch issue resulted from legislative changes to Social Security during the 1970s. The 1972 Amendments to the Social Security Act first established cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) for Social Security. This change was intended to adjust benefits for...

Industrial Demand and the Changing Natural Gas Market

The U.S. industrial demand for natural gas has been the largest of the five demand sectors identified by the Energy Information Administration (EIA). It also has been the only sector that has exhibited a decline in its total consumption over the decade of the 2000s. Some have attributed this decline in demand to high, fluctuating natural gas prices.

Rising natural gas prices in the 2000s were related to expectations of increased demand coupled with an apparently scarce resource base and declining production. In recent years, the perception of increasing scarcity and the need to open the...

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act: Titles III and VI, Regulation of Depository Institutions and Depository Institution Holding Companies

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, P.L. 111-203, has as its main purpose financial regulatory reform. Titles III and VI effectuate changes in the regulatory structure governing depository institutions and their holding companies and, thus, constitute a substantial component of the reform effort. Under Title III, there will no longer be a single regulator of federal and state-chartered savings associations, also known as thrifts or savings and loan associations. Title III abolishes the Office of the Thrift Supervision (OTS) and contains extensive...

The United States Flag: Federal Law Relating to Display and Associated Questions

This report presents, verbatim, the United States “Flag Code” as found in Title 4 of the United States Code and the section of Title 36 which designates the Star-Spangled Banner as the national anthem and provides instructions on how to display the flag during its rendition. The “Flag Code” includes instruction and rules on such topics as the pledge of allegiance, display and use of the flag by civilians, time and occasions for display, position and manner of display, and how to show respect for the flag. The “Code” also grants to the President the authority to modify the rules governing...

Education of Individuals with Disabilities: The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Several federal statutes, notably the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), address the rights of individuals with disabilities to education. Although there is overlap, particularly with Section 504 and the ADA, each statute plays a significant part in the education of individuals with disabilities, and is of interest to Congress both in preparing for the reauthorization of IDEA and in oversight of recent amendments to the ADA. IDEA, enacted in 1975, is both a grants statute and civil rights...

Chief Administrative Officer of the House: History and Organization

The Chief Administrative Officer of the House of Representatives (CAO) is an elected officer of the House, chosen at the beginning of each Congress. The office of the CAO consists of three divisions: the immediate office of the CAO, operations, and customer solutions. Together, these divisions oversee human resources, financial services, technology infrastructure, procurement, facilities management, and other House support functions. An office initially created at the beginning the 104th Congress (1995-1996), the CAO assumed the duties previously performed by the Director of...

Changing Postal ZIP Code Boundaries

The 112th Congress may address issues related to the application and modification of ZIP Codes. This report assists members in addressing concerns about the use of ZIP Codes as well as offers an overview of the boundary review process that can lead to changes in ZIP Code assignment.

Since the ZIP Code system for identifying address locations was devised in the 1960s, some citizens have wanted to change the ZIP Codes to which their addresses have been assigned. Because ZIP Codes are often not aligned with municipal boundaries, millions of Americans have mailing addresses in neighboring...

Campaign Finance: Potential Legislative and Policy Issues for the 111th Congress

This report provides an overview of selected campaign finance policy issues that may receive, or have received, attention during the 111th Congress. Congress continues to consider the Supreme Court’s January 21, 2010, ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The decision has shaped much of the legislative debate on campaign finance issues during the second session of the 111th Congress. Thus far, most congressional attention responding to the ruling has focused on the DISCLOSE Act (H.R. 5175; S. 3295; S. 3628). H.R. 5175 passed the House on June 29, 2010. On a related...

Upcoming Rules Pursuant to the Dodd-Frank Act: Fall 2010 Unified Agenda

Congress delegates rulemaking authority to agencies for a variety of reasons and in a variety of ways. The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (P.L. 111-203, July 21, 2010, hereafter the “Dodd-Frank Act”) is a particularly noteworthy example of congressional delegation of rulemaking authority to federal agencies. A previous CRS report identified more than 300 provisions in the act that require or permit the issuance of rules to implement the legislation.

One way for Congress to identify upcoming Dodd-Frank Act rules is by reviewing the Unified Agenda of Federal...

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA): A Private Cause of Action

Congress has long recognized the need to protect the legal interests of servicemembers whose service to the nation may compromise their ability to meet specified commercial and financial obligations. The purpose of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) is to provide for, strengthen, and expedite the national defense by protecting servicemembers, enabling them to “devote their entire energy to the defense needs of the Nation.” The SCRA protects servicemembers by temporarily suspending certain judicial and administrative proceedings and transactions that may adversely affect their legal...

A History of Federal Estate, Gift, and Generation-Skipping Taxes

This report details the history of the three federal transfer taxes, tracing their development from their 18th-century roots to the present.

The Motion to Recommit in the House of Representatives: Effects and Recent Trends

When the House considers legislation, one of the last steps it takes is to consider a motion to recommit. The motion to recommit represents the last chance of the House to affect a measure. In practice, that means either to offer amendatory language or to send the bill back to committee.

The motion to recommit is typically offered after the previous question has been ordered on a measure, but before the House votes on final passage. Preference in recognition for offering a motion to recommit is given to a member of the minority party who is opposed to the bill. It is not in order for the...

Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC): Basic Functions and Fairness and Adequacy Issues

The Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) is a nonprofit, nongovernmental corporation that was established in 1970 through the Securities Investor Protection Act (SIPA) to protect securities investors in the event of a broker-dealer failure. Except as otherwise provided in SIPA, the provisions of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (1934 act) apply as if SIPA were an amendment to, and included as a section of, the 1934 act.

A court-appointed trustee generally presides over a SIPC member broker’s liquidation and returns the remaining cash and securities to the firm’s former...

Emergency Response: Civil Liability of Volunteer Health Professionals

The devastation inflicted on the Gulf region by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 and Hurricanes Gustav and Ike in 2008, in addition to recent disasters in the Midwest due to tornadoes and flooding, triggered mass relief efforts by local, state, and federal government agencies, as well as private organizations and individuals. As unpaid volunteers have carried out much of the relief effort, some have questioned whether such volunteers—particularly medical personnel, so-called “volunteer health professionals” (VHPs)—will be protected from potential civil liability in carrying out their...

Incapacity of a Member of Congress

There is no specific protocol or procedure set out in the United States Constitution, federal law, or congressional rule for the Senate or the House of Representatives that has been followed to recognize an “incapacity” of a sitting member and thereby declare a “vacancy” in such office. Under the general practice in the Senate and in the House of Representatives, a personal “incapacity” of a sitting, living member has not generated proceedings to declare the seat vacant, and sitting members of the Senate and the House who have become incapacitated, and who have not resigned, have generally...

Managing Disaster Debris: Overview of Regulatory Requirements, Agency Roles, and Selected Challenges

After a disaster, when a region turns its attention to rebuilding, one of the greatest challenges to moving forward may involve how to properly manage debris generated by the event. Options include typical methods of waste management—landfilling, recycling, or burning. The challenge after a major disaster (e.g., a building or bridge collapse, or a flood, hurricane, or earthquake) is in managing significantly greater amounts of debris often left in the wake of such an event.

Debris after a disaster may include waste soils and sediments, vegetation (trees, limbs, shrubs), municipal solid...

Committee on the Budget in the House of Representatives: Structure and Responsibilities

The basic framework that is used today for congressional consideration of budget policy was established in the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974. This act provides for the annual adoption of a concurrent resolution on the budget as a mechanism for setting forth aggregate levels of spending, revenue, and public debt. The act also established standing committees in both chambers of Congress with jurisdiction over, among other things, the concurrent resolution on the budget. This report describes the structure and responsibilities of the Committee on the Budget in the...

Adopting a Long-Term Budget Focus: Challenges and Proposals

One criticism of the current budget process is that it does not encourage or require the consideration of long-term budgetary concerns. In this context, a long-term concern is one that affects the budget beyond the traditional five- or 10-year budget window as currently used in the congressional budget resolution and the President’s budget.

Some components of the budget process already deal with long-term budget issues. This means that data already exist, in publicly available formats, to assist in evaluating the country’s long-term fiscal health. In some instances, data evaluating the...

Upcoming Rules Pursuant to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act: Fall 2010 Unified Agenda

Congress delegates rulemaking authority to agencies for a variety of reasons, and in a variety of ways. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA, P.L. 111-148) is a particularly noteworthy example of congressional delegation of rulemaking authority to federal agencies. A previous CRS report identified more than 40 provisions in PPACA that require or permit the issuance of rules to implement the legislation.

One way for Congress to identify upcoming PPACA rules is by reviewing the Unified Agenda of Federal Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions, which is published twice each year...

Current Issues in Patentable Subject Matter: Business Methods, Tax Planning Methods, and Genetic Materials

Congressional interest in the patent system has grown in recent years, tracking increasing recognition of the importance of intellectual property to innovative U.S. industries. One of the areas of interest is the topic of patentable subject matter—that is, the sorts of inventions for which patents may be obtained. In particular, patents on business methods, tax planning methods, and genetic materials have proven controversial. Legislation introduced in recent sessions of Congress would restrict the availability of patents in these fields. None of these bills has been enacted.

The patent...

Trade Promotion Authority and Fast-Track Negotiating Authority for Trade Agreements: Major Votes

This report profiles significant legislation, including floor votes, that authorized the use of presidential Trade Promotion Authority (TPA)—previously known as fast-track trade negotiating authority—since its inception in 1974. The report also includes a list of floor votes since 1979 on implementing legislation for trade agreements that were passed under TPA fast-track procedures. Although TPA expired on July 1, 2007, four free trade agreements (FTAs) were signed in time to be considered under TPA expedited procedures in the 110th Congress. The U.S.-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement...

Real Property Disposition: Overview and Issues for the 112th Congress

Federal executive branch agencies hold an extensive real property portfolio that includes nearly 900,000 buildings and structures, and 41 million acres of land worldwide. These assets have been acquired over a period of decades to help agencies fulfill their diverse missions. The government’s portfolio encompasses properties with a range of uses, including barracks, health clinics, warehouses, laboratories, national parks, boat docks, and offices. As agencies’ missions change over time, so, too, do their real property needs, thereby rendering some assets less useful or unneeded altogether....

Biochar: Examination of an Emerging Concept to Sequester Carbon

Biochar is a charcoal produced under high temperatures using crop residues, animal manure, or any type of organic waste material. Depending on the feedstock, biochar may look similar to potting soil or to a charred substance. The combined production and use of biochar is considered a carbon-negative process, meaning that it removes carbon from the atmosphere.

Biochar has multiple potential environmental benefits, foremost the potential to sequester carbon in the soil for hundreds to thousands of years at an estimate. Studies suggest that crop yields can increase as a result of applying...

Water Quality Issues in the 111th Congress: Oversight and Implementation

Although much progress has been made in achieving the ambitious goals that Congress established more than 35 years ago in the Clean Water Act (CWA) to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation’s waters, long-standing problems persist, and new problems have emerged. Water quality problems are diverse, ranging from pollution runoff from farms and ranches, city streets, and other diffuse or “nonpoint” sources, to toxic substances discharged from factories and sewage treatment plants.

There is little agreement among stakeholders about what solutions...

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Coverage of Contagious Diseases

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§12101 et seq., provides broad nondiscrimination protection for individuals with disabilities in employment, public services, public accommodations and services operated by private entities, transportation, and telecommunications. As stated in the act, its purpose is “to provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities.” Due to concern about the spread of highly contagious diseases such as pandemic influenza and extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis...

An Analysis of the Tax Treatment of Capital Losses

Several reasons have been advanced for increasing the net capital loss limit against ordinary income: as part of an economic stimulus plan, as a means of restoring confidence in the stock market, and to restore the value of the loss limitation to its 1978 level. Under current law, long-term and short-term losses are netted against their respective gains and then against each other, but if any net loss remains it can offset up to $3,000 of ordinary income each year. Capital loss limits are imposed because individuals who own stock directly decide when to realize gains and losses. The limit...

Public Housing: The Operating Fund Formula

The local public housing authorities (PHAs) that administer the federal public housing program began receiving their annual federal operating subsidies under a new formula in January 2007. As a result of this formula change, some PHAs were eligible for an increase in their eligibility for funding and others were eligible for a decrease. Both the increases and the decreases were phased in (over two and five years, respectively) and PHAs that faced declines were eligible to limit their losses by adopting management reformswhich were also a part of the new operating fund requirementsearlier...

Access to Paper Currency by Visually Impaired Individuals: The American Council of the Blind v. Paulson

In May 2008, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia issued a decision in The American Council of the Blind v. Paulson. The D.C. Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s holding that the U.S. Department of the Treasury violated Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 by issuing paper currency in denominations that people with visual impairments cannot readily identify. Specifically, the court ruled that the current design of U.S. banknotes denies people with visual impairments meaningful access to the benefits of using U.S. currency. Furthermore, the...

Emergency Designation: Current Budget Rules and Procedures

Budgetary legislation is constrained by certain enforcement rules that are generally intended to control spending, revenues, and the deficit. Since 1990, those rules have provided, in various forms, procedural mechanisms allowing Congress to effectively exempt certain budgetary amounts from such constraints by designating a provision in a measure as an emergency requirement. This report provides a brief description of the current rules and congressional procedures associated with the emergency designation.

Currently, the authority and the procedures related to designating a provision as an...

Applicability of the Copyright Law’s First Sale Doctrine to Imported Goods Manufactured Abroad: Costco Wholesale Corp. v. Omega S.A.

Section 106(3) of the Copyright Act grants a copyright holder the exclusive right to distribute copies of a copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending. In addition, § 602(a) of the Copyright Act generally prohibits the importation into the United States, without the authority of the copyright holder, of copies of a work that have been acquired outside the United States; such importation is considered an infringement of the exclusive right to distribute copies of the work under § 106. However, the Copyright Act’s “first-sale”...

False Patent Marking: Litigation and Legislation

Patent Reform: Judicial Developments in Areas of Legislative Interest

Legislative interest in the patent system has been evidenced by the introduction of reform legislation in the 111th and predecessor Congresses. These bills would have amended existing patent law in numerous respects. Although none of these bills were enacted, discussion of patent reform may continue in the 112th Congress.

Although the patent system has been the subject of congressional interest over the past few years, the courts have also been active in making changes to important patent law principles. Many changes introduced by the judiciary have concerned topics that are also the...

Distribution of Broadband Stimulus Grants and Loans: Applications and Awards

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA, P.L. 111-5) provided $7.2 billion primarily for broadband grant and loan programs to be administered by two separate agencies: the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) of the Department of Commerce (DOC) and the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The NTIA grant program is called the Broadband Technology Opportunity Program (BTOP). The RUS broadband grant and loan program is called the Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP).

As of October 1, 2010, all BTOP and BIP award...

Broadband Infrastructure Programs in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA, P.L. 111-5) provided $7.2 billion primarily for broadband grant programs to be administered by two separate agencies: the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) of the Department of Commerce (DOC) and the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Of the $7.2 billion total, the ARRA provided $4.7 billion to establish a Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) at NTIA, and $2.5 billion as funding for broadband grant, loan, and loan/grant combination programs at RUS....

The Americans with Disabilities Act and Emergency Preparedness and Response

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides broad nondiscrimination protection for individuals with disabilities in employment, public services, and public accommodations and services operated by private entities. Although the ADA does not include provisions specifically discussing its application to disasters, its nondiscrimination provisions are applicable to emergency preparedness and responses to disasters. In order to further the ADA’s goals, President Bush issued an Executive Order on July 22, 2004, relating to emergency preparedness for individuals with disabilities and...

EMTALA: Access to Emergency Medical Care

The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) ensures universal access to emergency medical care at all Medicare participating hospitals with emergency departments. Under EMTALA, any person who seeks emergency medical care at a covered facility, regardless of ability to pay, immigration status, or any other characteristic, is guaranteed an appropriate screening exam and stabilization treatment before transfer or discharge. Failure to abide by these requirements can subject hospitals or physicians to civil monetary sanctions or exclusion from Medicare. Hospitals, but not...

Membership of the 111th Congress: A Profile

This report presents a profile of the membership of the 111th Congress. Statistical information is included on selected characteristics of Members, including data on party affiliation, average age and length of service, occupation, religious affiliation, gender, ethnicity, foreign births, and military service.

Water Quality Bills in the Lame Duck Session of the 111th Congress

Early in December 2010, press reports indicated that legislators, especially in the Senate, were seeking to gather support for several water quality bills that could be considered during the post-election, lame duck session of the 111th Congress, possibly packaged with others dealing with public lands and wildlife protection. These discussions resulted in a comprehensive bill, titled “America’s Great Outdoors Act of 2010,” that was introduced in the Senate on December 17 (S.Amdt. 4845 to S. 303). This report describes water quality bills that were included in the legislative package.

All...

Emergency Communications: Broadband and the Future of 911

Today’s 911 system is built on an infrastructure of analog technology that does not support many of the features that most Americans expect to be part of an emergency response. Efforts to splice newer, digital technologies onto this aging infrastructure have created points of failure where a call can be dropped or misdirected, sometimes with tragic consequences. Callers to 911, however, generally assume that the newer technologies they are using to place a call are matched by the same level of technology at the 911 call centers, known as Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs). However,...

The TANF Emergency Contingency Fund

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA; P.L. 111-5) created a $5 billion Emergency Contingency Fund (ECF) within the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant to help states, Indian tribes, and the territories pay for additional economic aid to families during the current economic downturn. It was part of a package of tax and benefit program provisions aimed at stemming the decline in family incomes and purchasing power caused by increased unemployment. The ECF was a temporary fund for two years, FY2009 and FY2010, and expired on September 30, 2010. All...

The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (WSRA): Protections, Federal Water Rights, and Development Restrictions

Congress enacted the WSRA as part of a myriad of environmental conservation legislation enacted in the 1960s and 1970s. The act provides protection to certain rivers within the United States in order to balance the tendency toward development of the nation’s rivers for industry or recreation. The act declares it to be the policy of the United States that certain rivers that possess “outstandingly remarkable scenic, recreational, geologic, fish and wildlife, historic, cultural, or other similar values, shall be preserved in free-flowing condition.” The act further provides that “the...

Spectrum Policy: Public Safety and Wireless Communications Interference

In mid-2005, wireless communications managers commenced the process of moving selected public safety radio channels to new frequencies. This step was part of a rebanding plan to mitigate persistent problems with interference to public safety radio communications. The majority of documented incidents of interference was attributed to the network built by Nextel Communications, Inc (now Sprint Nextel). As part of an agreement originally made between Nextel and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), some public safety wireless users have moved or will move to new frequencies, with the...

Ozone Air Quality Standards: EPA’s Proposed Revisions

On December 8, 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it will delay issuing revised ambient air quality standards for ozone until July 2011 so that it can consider further recommendations from an independent panel of scientific advisers. The agency proposed changes to the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ozone on January 19, 2010, with an expected promulgation date of August 2010. The December announcement marks the third time that the agency has postponed issuing the revised standards.

NAAQS are standards for outdoor (ambient) air that are...

Unemployment and Employment Trends Before and After the End of Recessions

Although the 11th recession of the postwar period officially ended in June 2009, one economic indicator that is very visible in people’s daily lives—the unemployment rate—has continued to rise. With the unemployment rate at 9.8% in November 2010, those still employed or able to find jobs are quite likely to know personally others who have been less fortunate. The still high unemployment rate partly reflects the slow pace at which employers have been adding workers to their payrolls despite enactment of job creation legislation in February 2009 (the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act,...

U.S. Arms Sales: Agreements with and Deliveries to Major Clients, 2002-2009

This report provides background data on U.S. arms sales agreements with and deliveries to its major purchasers during calendar years 2002-2009, made through the U.S. Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program. In a series of data tables, it lists the total dollar values of U.S. government-to-government arms sales agreements with its top five purchasers, and the total dollar values of U.S. arms deliveries to those purchasers, in five specific regions of the world for three specific periods: 2002-2005, 2006-2009, and 2009 alone. In addition, the report provides data tables listing the total dollar...

Federal Civil and Criminal Penalties Possibly Applicable to Parties Responsible for the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill

Since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill began on April 20, 2010, Congress has given much attention to the compensatory liability provisions of the Oil Pollution Act and, to a lesser extent, those of the Jones Act and the Death on the High Seas Act. However, federal laws possibly relevant to the oil spill also impose civil and criminal money penalties, which may reach dollar amounts in connection with the Gulf spill greater than those for compensatory liability. This report summarizes selected federal civil and criminal penalty provisions that may be found violated in connection with the Gulf...

Piracy: A Legal Definition

Pirate attacks in the waters off the Horn of Africa, including those on U.S.-flagged vessels, have brought continued U.S. and international attention to the long-standing problem of piracy in the region. The United States has been an active participant in piracy interdiction and prevention operations focusing on the Horn of Africa region. As part of anti-piracy operations, the U.S. military has detained individuals accused of acts of piracy against U.S.-flagged vessels. In some instances these individuals have been released, others have been transferred to Kenya for criminal prosecution in...

Classified Information Policy and Executive Order 13526

Recently, there have been multiple high-profile incidents involving the release of classified government information. Perhaps most prominent was Wikileaks.org’s unauthorized publication of more than 600,000 classified Department of Defense documents. Such incidents have further heightened congressional, media, and public interest in classified information policy.

President Barack H. Obama issued Executive Order 13526 on “Classified National Security Information” on December 29, 2009, and Congress enacted P.L. 111-258, the Reducing Over-Classification Act, which President Obama signed into...

Farm Safety Net Programs: Issues for the Next Farm Bill

Roughly every five years, Congress debates and revises omnibus legislation governing federal farm policy. Commodity provisions in the 2008 farm bill (P.L. 110-246) expire in 2012, and Congress is currently reviewing U.S. farm policy. The collection of federal farm programs, which make payments to farmers and landlords, is often referred to by the broader farming community as the “farm safety net.” Some programs such as “counter-cyclical payments” (which rise when crop prices decline) contain elements of a safety net—which is usually intended to protect recipients against economic risks....

Clean Air Issues in the 111th Congress

EPA regulatory actions on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions using existing Clean Air Act authority have been the main focus of congressional interest in clean air issues in recent months. Although the agency and the Obama Administration have consistently said that they would prefer that Congress pass legislation to address climate change, EPA has begun to develop regulations using its existing authority. On December 15, 2009, the agency finalized an “endangerment finding” under Section 202 of the Clean Air Act, which permits it (in fact, requires it) to regulate pollutants for their effect as...

House Rules Committee Hearings on Special Rules

When the Rules Committee reports a resolution on the order of business, commonly called a “rule” or “special rule,” the committee usually has two purposes in mind: first, to make it in order for the House to consider a measure that was reported by another committee; and second, to establish the terms under which the House will debate, amend, and vote on that measure. Before reporting a special rule, the Rules Committee typically holds a hearing at which members appear as witnesses to discuss both questions: whether the House should consider the bill at issue; and, if so, how the bill...

Special Rules and Waivers of House Rules

A special rule is a House resolution intended to regulate floor consideration of a specific legislative measure named in the resolution. The requirements prescribed by a special rule can supersede the standing rules of the House (as well as rulemaking provisions in statutes such as the Congressional Budget Act), but only in application to the measure named. Special rules have two key functions: (1) to enable the House to consider a specified measure, and (2) to establish specified terms for considering it. Waivers are one aspect of this second function. For more information on legislative...

Special Rules and Options for Regulating the Amending Process

A special rule is a House resolution intended to regulate floor consideration of a specific legislative measure named in the resolution. When adopted by the House, the requirements prescribed by a special rule can supersede the standing rules of the House (as well as rulemaking provisions in statutes such as the Congressional Budget Act), but only in application to the measure named. Special rules serve two key functions: (1) to enable the House to consider a specified measure, and (2) to establish specific terms for considering it, including any modifications of the amending process. This...

One-time Payment in Lieu of a Social Security COLA

In October 2010, the Social Security Administration announced that Social Security beneficiaries will not receive a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) in 2011 for the second consecutive year. The COLA is based on a formula in the Social Security Act and the change in prices as measured by the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W). Because consumer prices reached a peak in 2008 and have not regained that peak over the measurement periods used to determine the COLA for 2010 and 2011, Social Security benefits remain flat at their 2009 levels. Stated another...

Interactions Between the Social Security COLA and Medicare Part B Premiums

On October 15, 2010, the Social Security Administration announced there will be no Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) in 2011. In addition, there was no Social Security COLA in 2010. The last positive Social Security COLA took effect in January 2009 and was 5.8% for all of 2009. Meanwhile, over the past five years, Medicare Part B program costs have increased an average of 8.3% per year and are expected to continue to grow. By statute, Part B premiums, which are automatically deducted from Social Security checks for those who receive Social Security, must cover 25% of...

Obstruction of Congress: A Brief Overview of Federal Law Relating to Interference with Congressional Activities

Obstruction of justice is the impediment of governmental activities. There are a host of federal criminal laws that prohibit obstructions of justice. The six most general outlaw obstruction of judicial proceedings (18 U.S.C. 1503), witness tampering (18 U.S.C. 1512), witness retaliation (18 U.S.C. 1513), obstruction of congressional or administrative proceedings (18 U.S.C. 1505), conspiracy to defraud the United States (18 U.S.C. 371), and contempt (a creature of statute, rule and common law). All but Section 1503 cover congressional activities.

The laws that supplement, and sometimes...

Obstruction of Congress: An Abridged Overview of Federal Criminal Laws Relating to Interference with Congressional Activities

Obstruction of justice is the frustration of governmental purposes by violence, corruption, destruction of evidence, or deceit. It is a federal crime. In fact, it is several crimes. Obstruction prosecutions regularly involve charges under several statutory provisions. Federal obstruction of justice laws are legion; too many for even passing reference to all of them in a single report.

The general obstruction of justice provisions are six: 18 U.S.C. 1512 (tampering with federal witnesses), 1513 (retaliating against federal witnesses), 1503 (obstruction of pending federal court proceedings),...

Oil Spill Legislation in the 111th Congress

This report summarizes provisions of selected legislation—enacted and proposed—that addresses oil spill policy issues raised after the April 20, 2010, explosion and resulting oil spill at the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico.

The 2010 Gulf oil spill has generated considerable interest in oil spill issues. The House of Representatives has conducted at least 33 hearings in 10 committees. The Senate has conducted at least 30 hearings in eight committees. Members have introduced over 150 legislative proposals that have included one or more provisions that would affect...

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): Final Rule Amending Title II and Title III Regulations

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has as its purpose “to provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities.” On July 26, 2010, the 20th anniversary of the passage of the ADA, the Department of Justice (DOJ) issued final rules amending the existing regulations under ADA title II (prohibiting discrimination against individuals with disabilities by state and local governments) and ADA title III (prohibiting discrimination against individuals with disabilities by places of public accommodations). The new...

Average Years of Service for Members of the Senate and House of Representatives, 1st - 111th Congresses

The average tenure of Members of the Senate and House of Representatives at the beginning of each Congress has varied substantially since 1789. The purpose of this report is to provide a Congress-by-Congress summary of the average years of service for Senators and Representatives for the First through the 111th Congresses. The report contains a brief summary of some of the explanations by political scientists and others for the various changes in the average years of service.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Service Animals

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has as its purpose providing “a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities.” In order to effectuate this purpose, the ADA and its regulations require reasonable accommodation or modifications in policies, practices, or procedures when such modifications are necessary to render the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations accessible to individuals with disabilities. The reasonable accommodation or modification requirement has been interpreted to...

Recreation Fees Under the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act

The Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA in P.L. 108-447) established a new recreation fee program for five federal agencies—the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation), National Park Service (NPS), Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in the Department of the Interior (DOI) and the Forest Service (FS) in the Department of Agriculture (USDA). The law authorizes these agencies to charge fees at recreation sites through December 8, 2014. It provides for different kinds of fees, criteria for charging fees, public participation in determining fees, and...

Tax Issues and the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill: Legal Analysis of Payments and Tax Relief Policy Options

The explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig and subsequent oil spill into the Gulf of Mexico has led to substantial damages, particularly in the form of lost wages and income. BP has begun to make interim payments to compensate for lost income resulting from the oil spill. Individuals and businesses impacted by the oil spill may file a claim with the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, an independent entity established to administer the claims, with payments coming from an escrow account funded by BP. The tax consequences of these payments to the recipients will depend on the nature of the...

Telework for Executive Agency Employees: A Side-by-Side Comparison of Legislation Pending in the 111th Congress

Legislation to augment telework in executive agencies of the federal government is currently pending in the 111th Congress. S. 707, the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010, and H.R. 1722, the Telework Improvements Act of 2010, were introduced on March 25, 2009, by Senator Daniel Akaka and Representative John Sarbanes, respectively. The Senate passed S. 707, amended, under unanimous consent on May 24, 2010. The House passed H.R. 1722, amended, on July 14, 2010, on a 290-131 (Roll No. 441) vote. The Senate agreed to an amendment in the nature of a substitute to H.R. 1722, and then passed H.R....

The Kurds in Post-Saddam Iraq

The Kurdish-inhabited region of northern Iraq has been relatively peaceful and prosperous since the fall of Saddam Hussein. However, the Iraqi Kurds’ political autonomy, and territorial and economic demands, have caused friction with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and other Arab leaders of Iraq, and with Christian and other minorities in the north. As the United States transitions to a support role in Iraq, these tensions are assessed by U.S. commanders as having the potential to erode the security gains that have taken place in Iraq since 2007. Some U.S. officials want to establish clear...

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973: Prohibiting Discrimination Against Individuals with Disabilities in Programs or Activities Receiving Federal Assistance

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination against an otherwise qualified individual with a disability solely by reason of disability in any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance or under any program or activity conducted by an executive agency or the U.S. Postal Service. Section 504 was the first federal civil rights law generally prohibiting discrimination against individuals with disabilities. This report examines Section 504, recent amendments to the definition of disability, Section 504’s regulations, and Supreme Court interpretations....

Marine Protected Areas: An Overview

There continues to be congressional interest in limiting human activity in certain areas of the marine environment, as one response to mounting evidence of declining environmental quality and populations of living resources. The purposes of proposed additional limits would be both to stem declines and to permit the rehabilitation of these environments and populations. One method of implementing this concept is for Congress to designate areas where activities would be limited, often referred to as marine protected areas (MPAs). Translating the MPA approach into a national program, however,...

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): Proposed Employment Regulations

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a broad civil rights act prohibiting discrimination against individuals with disabilities. As stated in the act, its purpose is “to provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities.” In 2008, Congress enacted the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA), P.L. 110-325, to address Supreme Court decisions which interpreted the definition of disability narrowly. On September 23, 2009, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued proposed regulations under the ADA Amendments...

Tax-Exempt Organizations: Political Activity Restrictions and Disclosure Requirements

As the 2010 election cycle heats up, attention is focused on the political activities of tax-exempt § 501(c) organizations. This is due in large part to a recent Supreme Court case, Citizens United v. FEC, which invalidated long-standing prohibitions in federal campaign finance law on corporate and labor union campaign treasury spending. These prohibitions had affected § 501(c) organizations because many are incorporated and because all organizations (regardless of corporate status) could not serve as conduits for corporate or labor union treasury funds. Thus, post-Citizens United, §...

High-Deductible Health Plans and Health Savings Accounts: An Empirical Review

Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), as authorized by the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act (P.L. 108-173, MMA) of 2003, are tax-preferred savings accounts used to pay for unreimbursed qualified medical expenses such as health insurance deductibles, copayments, and services not covered by insurance. To contribute to an HSA, the insured must have a high-deductible health plan (HDHP), and generally no other health insurance coverage. One of a number of the stated goals of the 2003 legislation is to encourage workers to better save for their health care in retirement....

The ADA Amendments Act: P.L. 110-325

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a broad civil rights act prohibiting discrimination against individuals with disabilities. As stated in the act, its purpose is “to provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities.”

The threshold issue in any ADA case is whether the individual alleging discrimination is an individual with a disability. Several Supreme Court decisions, including those in Sutton v. United Air Lines, Inc., 527 U.S. 471 (1999), and Toyota Motor Manufacturing v. Williams, 534 U.S. 184...

Patent-Eligibility of Process Claims Under Section 101 of the Patent Act: Bilski v. Kappos

The source of federal patent law originates with the Patent Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which authorizes Congress: “To promote the Progress of ... useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to ... Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective ... Discoveries.” Section 101 of the Patent Act describes the subject matter that is eligible for patent protection, which may be divided into four categories: processes, machines, manufactures, and compositions of matter. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued two decisions in the 1990s, In re Alappat and State Street Bank...

An Overview of Recent U.S. Supreme Court Jurisprudence in Patent Law

Patent law jurisprudence is continually being developed through litigation over activities that allegedly infringe a patent holder’s rights. The losing party in these cases may appeal the district court’s decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, a specialized tribunal established by Congress that has exclusive appellate jurisdiction in patent cases. Parties dissatisfied with the Federal Circuit’s rulings may petition the U.S. Supreme Court to review the appellate court’s decision. However, the Supreme Court is not required to entertain the appeal; it has discretion to...

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Requirements Concerning the Provision of Interpreters by Hospitals and Doctors

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a broad civil rights act prohibiting discrimination against individuals with disabilities. Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits places of public accommodation, including hospitals and doctors’ offices, from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. The Department of Justice (DOJ) promulgated regulations under title III requiring the use of auxiliary aids, unless they would fundamentally alter the nature of the service or result in an undue burden. Auxiliary aids may include qualified interpreters as well...

FY2011 Budget Proposals and Projections

This report provides an overview of major budget estimates and projections for the FY2011 federal budget cycle. The report presents and compares budget projections calculated by the Obama Administration’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). In addition, the report discusses major budgetary issues.

The congressional budget process usually begins once the Administration submits its budget to Congress. The Senate Budget Committee passed a version of a budget resolution (S.Con.Res. 60) in April, and the House adopted a deeming resolution (H.Res....

FEMA Disaster Housing: From Sheltering to Permanent Housing

For over three decades the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has provided temporary housing assistance to eligible victims of natural disasters. FEMA has responded to more than a thousand disaster and emergency events over this period, employing a number of options for meeting the needs of people who have lost their primary housing as a result of a disaster declared by the President. The cycle of help from sheltering provided by local organizations in the immediate aftermath, to the eventual repair and rebuilding or replacement of private homes and rental units, is the focus of...

Current Legal Status of the FCC’s Media Ownership Rules

The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) media ownership regulations place limits on the number of broadcast radio and television outlets one owner can possess in a given market and place cross-ownership restrictions on these outlets and on the cross-ownership of broadcast properties and newspapers. The FCC is under a statutory obligation to review these rules every four years to determine whether the restrictions on ownership remain necessary in the public interest as the result of competition. These media ownership regulation reviews have often been controversial. Since the passage...

Supreme Court Nominations Not Confirmed, 1789 to the Present

Since 1789, Presidents have submitted 160 nominations to Supreme Court positions. Of these, 36 were not confirmed by the Senate. The 36 nominations represent 31 individuals whose names were sent forward to the Senate by Presidents (some individuals were nominated more than once). Of the 31 individuals who were not confirmed the first time they were nominated, however, six were later nominated again and confirmed. The Supreme Court nominations discussed here were not confirmed for a variety of reasons, including Senate opposition to the nominating President, nominee’s views, or incumbent...

Election Year Restrictions on Mass Mailings by Members of Congress: How H.R. 2056 Would Change Current Law

Current law prohibits the franking of mass mailings by Senators fewer than 60 days, and by House Members fewer than 90 days, prior to any primary or general election in which the Member is a candidate. H.R. 2056 would amend Title 39, United States Code, by altering the prohibition for both Senators and House Members to the period starting 90 days prior to any primary and ending on the day of the general election, unless the Member has made a public announcement that the Member will not be a candidate for reelection to any federal office.

The legislation would also prohibit the franking of...

Health Savings Accounts and High-Deductible Health Plans: A Data Primer

Individuals began establishing health savings accounts (HSAs) in 2004. These savings accounts are generally used to pay for unreimbursed medical expenses on a tax-advantaged basis. Any unspent money accrues to the individual. To open an HSA, the individual must enroll in a qualifying high-deductible health plan (HDHP). HSAs are tax-advantaged and provide some incentives for people to monitor, and perhaps reduce, their expenditures on health care.

Data covering enrollment and/or cost sharing during the first few years of HDHPs and their associated HSAs are now available from at least five...

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act: Insurance Provisions

In the aftermath of the recent financial crisis, broad financial regulatory reform legislation was advanced by the Obama Administration and by various Members of Congress. Ultimately Congress passed, and the President signed, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (P.L. 111-203).

The Dodd-Frank Act largely responded to the financial crisis that peaked in September 2008, but other efforts at revising the state-based system of insurance regulation also pre-date this crisis. Members of Congress previously introduced both broad legislation to federalize insurance...

Iran-Iraq Relations

With a conventional military and weapons of mass destruction (WMD) threat from Saddam Hussein’s regime removed, Iran seeks, at a minimum, to ensure that Iraq can never again become a threat to Iran, whether or not there are U.S. forces present in Iraq. Some believe that Iran’s intentions go far further—to try to harness Iraq to Iran’s broader policy goals, such as defense against international criticism of and sanctions against Iran’s nuclear program, and to enlist Iraq’s help in suppressing Iranian dissidents located inside Iraq. Some believe Iran sees Iraq primarily as as providing...

Renegotiation of the Standard Reinsurance Agreement (SRA) for Federal Crop Insurance

Under the federal crop insurance program, farmers can purchase crop insurance policies to manage financial risks associated with declines in crop yields and/or revenue. The program covers more than 100 crops and is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Risk Management Agency (RMA), which acts as both regulator and reinsurer. To encourage farmer participation and reduce the need for ad hoc disaster assistance, the federal government subsidizes the purchase of crop insurance policies, which are sold and serviced through 16 approved private insurance companies....

Tax Deductible Expenses: The BP Case

Following the release of BP’s second quarter earning statement, which showed a $10 billion reduction in tax liability for oil-spill-related cleanup and expenses, media headlines have generated public concern, and in some cases outrage, over these tax savings. Further, the ability of BP to realize these tax savings has generated a number of inquiries as to how and why BP is entitled to this reduction in tax liability.

BP’s reduction in tax liability is the result of standard business expense deductions and the general ability of taxpayers to claim refunds for previously paid taxes when...

Open Ocean Aquaculture

Open ocean aquaculture is broadly defined as the rearing of marine organisms in exposed areas beyond significant coastal influence. Open ocean aquaculture employs less control over organisms and the surrounding environment than do inshore and land-based aquaculture, which are often undertaken in enclosures, such as ponds. When aquaculture operations are located beyond coastal state jurisdiction, within the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ; generally 3 to 200 nautical miles from shore), they are regulated primarily by federal agencies. Thus far, only a few aquaculture research facilities...

Form 1099 Information Reporting Requirements as Modified by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

This report discusses the modifications to IRC § 6041 made by § 9006 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) and briefly discusses the penalties that can be imposed on persons that do not comply with these information reporting requirements.

Select Bush Administration Medicaid Rulemakings: Congressional and Administrative Actions

This report provides a summary of seven proposed, interim final, and final rules affecting the Medicaid program that were issued by the George W. Bush Administration during 2007 and 2008. These rules addressed Medicaid and graduate medical education, cost limits on public providers, provider taxes, rehabilitation services, case management, school-based administration and transportation services, and outpatient hospital services. Six of the seven rules (excluding the rule on outpatient hospital services) were under a congressional moratorium on further administrative action until April 1,...

Public Employees’ Right to Privacy in Their Electronic Communications: City of Ontario v. Quon in the Supreme Court

In City of Ontario v. Quon, the Supreme Court held that officials had acted reasonably when they reviewed transcripts of messages sent to and from Sergeant Quon’s city-issued pager in order to determine whether service limits on the pager’s use should be increased. The Court assumed, without deciding, that Quon had a reasonable expectation of privacy for Fourth Amendment purposes, but found that the search of the transcripts was reasonable.

In O’Connor v. Ortega, the Court had earlier split over the question of what test should be used to assess the reasonableness of a search of a public...

The DISCLOSE Act: Overview and Analysis

As it has periodically for decades, Congress is again considering how or whether to regulate campaign financing. The latest iteration of the debate over which kinds of groups should be permitted to spend funds on political advertisements, and how so, was renewed on January 21, 2010, when the Supreme Court of the United States issued its decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Following Citizens United, corporations and labor unions may now fund political advertisements explicitly calling for election or defeat of federal candidates—provided that the advertisements are...

Surplus Lines Insurance: Background and Current Legislation

In general, insurance is a highly regulated financial product. Every state requires licenses for insurance companies, and most states closely regulate both company conduct and the details of the particular insurance products sold in the state. This regulation is usually seen as important for consumer protection; however, it also creates barriers to entry in the insurance market and typically reduces to some degree the supply of insurance that is available to consumers. Rather than requiring consumers who may be unable to find insurance from a licensed insurer to simply go without...

The First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit

Homebuyers who were unable to close on their properties by the June 30, 2010, deadline imposed by the Worker, Homeownership, and Business Assistance Act of 2009 (P.L. 111-92) may still be able to receive the first-time homebuyer tax credit if they close before October 1, 2010, so long as they had a binding contract for the property before May 1, 2010, and that contract required closing before July 1, 2010, and they meet all other requirements for the credit. P.L. 111-198, enacted July 2, 2010, and effective for closings after June 30, 2010, provides the additional time for closing. It...

Civil Pleading Requirements After Bell Atlantic Corporation v. Twombly and Ashcroft v. Iqbal

In 2007 and 2009 decisions, Bell Atlantic Corporation v. Twombly and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, the U.S. Supreme Court heightened the standard governing whether a civil complaint filed in federal court will survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. After those rulings, it appears that federal courts must evaluate the “plausibility” of claims made at the pleading stage. Previously, complaints typically survived a motion to dismiss as long as they stated a claim for which some set of facts could be assembled to warrant legal relief. The change makes it less likely for plaintiffs’...

The “Volcker Rule”: Proposals to Limit “Speculative” Proprietary Trading by Banks

In 1933, during the first 100 days of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, the Securities Act of 1933 and the Glass-Steagall Act (GSA) were enacted, setting up a pervasive regulatory scheme for the public offering of securities and generally prohibiting commercial banks from underwriting and dealing in those securities. Banks are subject to heavy, expensive prudential regulation, while the regulation of securities firms is predominately built around registration, disclosure of risk, and the prevention and prosecution of insider trading and other forms of fraud.

While there are two...

Supreme Court Nominee Elena Kagan: Administrative Law and the Nondelegation Doctrine

This report discusses and analyzes Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan’s 2001 article, Chevron’s Nondelegation Doctrine, which she coauthored with David J. Barron, an assistant professor at Harvard Law School, during her time as a professor there.

The article provides an overview of two traditional dichotomies in administrative law on which courts rely in choosing between whether to accord deference to agency interpretations of statutory provisions: (1) the use of formal or informal procedures, such as the procedures set forth in the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), and (2) the general or...

NFL, Member Teams Not a “Single Entity” Immune to Prosecution Under Section 1 of the Sherman Act: American Needle, Inc. v. National Football League

In a decision that had the potential to upset decades of antitrust law, and also to have a broad impact beyond the immediate consequences for the litigating parties, the Supreme Court ruled, on May 24, 2010, that the intellectual-property licensing activities of the National Football League (NFL or League) and its member teams must be treated as those of separate entities whose cooperation and joint decisions are amenable to antitrust prosecution under Section 1 of the Sherman Act, which prohibits contracts or conspiracies “in restraint of trade” (American Needle, Inc. v. National Football...

Leave Benefits in the United States

In addition to their jobs, workers have obligations—civic, familial, and personal—to fulfill that sometimes require them to be absent from the workplace (e.g., to serve on a jury, retrieve a sick child from day care, or attend a funeral). The U.S. government generally has allowed individual employers to decide whether to accommodate the nonwork activities of employees by granting them leave, with or without pay, rather than firing them. In other countries, national governments or the international organizations to which they belong more often have developed social policies that entitle...

Unemployment Insurance Provisions in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (P.L. 111-5, also known as ARRA or the 2009 stimulus package) contained several provisions affecting unemployment benefits, described below.

ARRA temporarily increased unemployment benefits by $25 per week for all recipients of regular unemployment compensation (UC), extended benefits (EB), emergency unemployment compensation (EUC08), Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) programs, and Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA).

The act extended the temporary EUC08 program through December 26, 2009 (with grandfathering), to be financed by federal...

Supreme Court Nominee Elena Kagan: Defamation and the First Amendment

This report discusses prior writings by Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan on the interaction of defamation law and the First Amendment of the Constitution. It is based on two articles on defamation law written by Kagan during her academic career at the University of Chicago Law School and the Harvard Law School. The most recent of these articles is from 2000, and Kagan has not revisited this topic in any published writings since then. Thus, these two articles appear to represent her most extensive examination of the interaction between the First Amendment and defamation law.

The Army’s M-4 Carbine: Background and Issues for Congress

The M-4 carbine is the Army’s primary individual combat weapon for infantry units. While there have been concerns raised by some about the M-4’s reliability and lethality, some studies suggest that the M-4 is performing well and is viewed favorably by users. The Army is undertaking both the M4 Carbine Improvement Program and the Individual Carbine Competition, the former to identify ways to improve the current weapon, and the latter to conduct an open competition among small arms manufacturers for a follow-on weapon. An integrated product team comprising representatives from the Infantry...

The Jurisprudence of Justice John Paul Stevens: Selected Opinions on the Jury’s Role in Criminal Sentencing

Justice Stevens has played a critical role in the Supreme Court’s interpretation of a jury’s role in criminal sentencing. In 2000, he wrote the majority opinion for the Court in Apprendi v. New Jersey, a landmark case in which the Court held that a judge typically may not increase a sentence beyond the range prescribed by statute unless the increase is based on facts determined by a jury “beyond a reasonable doubt.” In 2005, he wrote one of two majority opinions in United States v. Booker, in which the Court applied the Apprendi rule to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. In those two cases...

Mortgage and Rental Assistance as Disaster Relief: Legislation in the 111th Congress

During the first session of the 111th Congress, Representative Oberstar, along with co-sponsors Representative Mica, Representative Holmes-Norton, and Representative Mario Diaz-Balart introduced H.R. 3377, the Disaster Response, Recovery and Mitigation Enhancement Act of 2009. Along with other provisions, the legislation would reinstate a Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (P.L. 93-288, as amended) provision that provided mortgage and rental assistance to disaster victims. Previously, Senators Feinstein and Boxer had introduced S. 2386, the Mortgage and Rental...

Redesign of the 50 Dollar Bill to Commemorate President Ronald W. Reagan

President Ronald W. Reagan, the 40th President of the United States, died on June 5, 2004. Since President Reagan’s death, there have been several attempts to pass legislation that would place the likeness of President Reagan on U.S. coin or currency. Similar action was taken after the death of Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and John F. Kennedy. The portrait of President Roosevelt was placed on the dime, President Kennedy’s portrait was placed on the half dollar, and President Eisenhower’s portrait was placed on a dollar coin. Current legislation (H.R. 4705, the...

The Law of Church and State: General Principles and Current Interpretations

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution prohibits the government from establishing a religion and guarantees citizens the right to freely exercise their religion. The U.S. Supreme Court has clarified the scope of these broad guarantees. This report provides an overview of the governing principles of the law of church and state. It explains the legal requirements for challenges under the Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause and the standards used to evaluate such challenges. The report includes current interpretations of these clauses and summarizes related statutes (P.L....

Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA): Liability of Responsible Parties

The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA) establishes a framework that addresses the liability of responsible parties in connection with the discharge of oil into the navigable waters of the United States, adjoining shorelines, or the exclusive economic zone. Among other provisions, OPA limits certain liabilities of a responsible party in connection with discharges of oil into such areas. The liability limitations established by OPA are currently the subject of significant congressional interest in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

A responsible party is strictly...

Deferred Examination of Patent Applications: Implications for Innovation Policy

Recent congressional interest in the patent system has in part focused upon the capabilities of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Many experts have expressed concern that the USPTO lacks the capacity to process the large number of patent applications that it receives. The USPTO’s growing inventory of filed, but unexamined applications could potentially lead to longer delays in the USPTO patent-granting process.

Under current law, a USPTO examiner automatically reviews each patent application that is filed. Some observers have suggested that the USPTO instead adopt a system of...

The Jurisprudence of Justice John Paul Stevens: The Chevron Doctrine

One of Justice John Paul Stevens’s most lasting jurisprudential legacies is his opinion in Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council. The 1984 case, a landmark decision in both administrative law and separation of powers, established the legal framework that has largely governed the degree of deference a court will accord a federal agency in interpreting and implementing statutes. What began as an unexceptional case focusing on the meaning of the phrase “stationary source” in the Clean Air Act has developed into one of the most frequently cited cases ever. Although often relied on as an...

Business Tax Issues in 2010

In 2009, congressional debate focused primarily on stimulating the economy, health care reform, and climate change. These issues are not only interrelated, but are also intimately linked with the taxation of businesses. For example, in February, Congress enacted the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (P.L. 111-5). Two of the act’s business tax provisions provided for a temporary increase of small business expensing and temporary “bonus” depreciation limits, while other provisions allow a delayed recognition of cancelation of debt income and five-year carryback of net operating...

OMB’s Financial Management Line of Business Initiative: A Brief Overview

Federal financial management systems generate the information that is used by government officials to manage and oversee agency programs and operations. Concerns about the quality of agency financial information, and about the costs of operating and modernizing the systems that produce it, have prompted a number of systems improvement initiatives in recent years. One such effort, the Financial Management Line of Business (FMLOB), seeks to improve the cost, quality, and performance of government financial systems by consolidating agency core systems functions at a limited number of...

The Jurisprudence of Justice John Paul Stevens: Selected Opinions on Intellectual Property Law

This report briefly surveys decisions of retiring Justice John Paul Stevens in intellectual property cases. An examination of Justice Stevens’ written opinions relating to intellectual property law reveals a strong desire to ensure that the rights of intellectual property creators are balanced with the rights of the public to access creative and innovative works. No decision embodies this interest more than Justice Stevens’ majority opinion in Sony Corporation of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc., a landmark copyright case issued in 1984 that paved the way for the development and...

501(c)(3) Hospitals and the Community Benefit Standard

The recently enacted Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA; P.L. 111-148, § 9007) imposes requirements on hospitals with § 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. Under the act, hospitals will be required to regularly conduct “community health needs assessments” and adopt implementation strategies to meet those needs. They are also required to have written financial assistance and emergency medical care policies that are consistent with standards imposed by the act. Furthermore, hospitals are not able to charge eligible uninsured individuals more than the lowest amounts charged to insured...

The Google Library Project: Is Digitization for Purposes of Online Indexing Fair Use Under Copyright Law?

In December 2004, Google announced its Library Project, which was to entail digitizing, indexing, and displaying "snippets" of print books in the collections of five major libraries, among other things. The Library Project was not limited to books in the public domain (e.g., books whose terms of copyright protection had expired), and Google did not seek the permission of copyright holders, in part, because it asserted that its proposed uses were fair uses. Many authors, publishers, and other rights holders disagreed. This report provides background on the Library Project, legal issues...

Arsenic in Drinking Water: Regulatory Developments and Issues

The Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments of 1996 (P.L. 104-182) directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to update the standard for arsenic in drinking water. In 2001, EPA issued a new arsenic rule that set the legal limit for arsenic in tap water at 10 parts per billion (ppb), replacing a 50 ppb standard set in 1975, before arsenic was classified as a carcinogen. The arsenic rule was to enter into effect on March 23, 2001, and water systems were given until January 2006 to comply. EPA concluded that the rule would provide health benefits, but projected that compliance would be...

Ineffective Assistance of Counsel: Deportation Consequences of Guilty Pleas

The Sixth Amendment entitles an accused in a criminal prosecution to “Assistance of Counsel for his defense.” This right to counsel implies a right to “effective assistance.” Effective assistance has dimensions of both breadth and depth: breadth in the sense of what considerations beyond those immediately at issue in the prosecution should be taken into account, so-called collateral consequences; depth in the sense of what professional standards pertain. In Padilla v. Kentucky, the Supreme Court held that “ineffective assistance” standards require informing a noncitizen defendant on...

Causes of the Financial Crisis

The current financial crisis began in August 2007, when financial stability replaced inflation as the Federal Reserve’s chief concern. The roots of the crisis go back much further, and there are various views on the fundamental causes.

It is generally accepted that credit standards in U.S. mortgage lending were relaxed in the early 2000s, and that rising rates of delinquency and foreclosures delivered a sharp shock to a range of U.S. financial institutions. Beyond that point of agreement, however, there are many questions that will be debated by policymakers and academics for decades.

Why...

Hedge Funds: Should They Be Regulated?

In an echo of the Robber Baron Era, the late 20th century saw the rise of a new elite class, who made their fortunes not in steel, oil, or railroads, but in financial speculation. These gilded few are the managers of a group of private, unregulated investment partnerships, called hedge funds. Deploying their own capital and that of well-to-do investors, successful hedge fund managers frequently (but not consistently) outperform public mutual funds. Hedge funds use many different investment strategies, but the largest and best-known funds engage in high-risk speculation in markets around...

Days Reserved for Special Business in the House

As presented in the following table and described below, several provisions in the rules of the House provide for certain types of business to be privileged for consideration on specified days, some under special procedures. For more information on legislative process, see http://www.crs.gov/products/guides/guidehome.shtml.

Lobbying Congress: An Overview of Legal Provisions and Congressional Ethics Rules

This report provides a brief overview and summary of the federal laws, ethical rules, and regulations which may be relevant to the activities of those who lobby the United States Congress. The report provides a summary discussion of the federal lobbying registration and disclosure requirements of the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995, as amended by the “Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007,” P.L. 110-81 (S. 1, 110th Congress); the Foreign Agents Registration Act; the issue of the propriety of contingency fees for lobbying; restrictions on lobbying with federal funds;...

Living Organ Donation and Valuable Consideration

The central issue before Congress with respect to living organ donation is how to balance the needs of people seeking organs with one another, and with the needs of potential organ donors. While the majority of organs are harvested from deceased donors, an increasing number of donations are made by living donors each year. As new types of programs are developed to help encourage the practice of living donation, both legal and ethical issues may arise.

The primary federal law governing organ donation in the United States is the National Organ Transplantation Act (NOTA, P.L. 98-507). It...

Private Health Insurance: Changes Made by H.R. 4872, the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010

On March 23, 2010, the President signed into law H.R. 3590, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) as passed by the Senate on December 24, 2009, and the House on March 21, 2010. The new law will, among other changes, make statutory changes affecting the regulation of and payment for certain types of private health insurance.

On March 21, 2010, the House passed an amendment in the nature of a substitute to H.R. 4872, the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 (hereafter referred to as the reconciliation bill). The reconciliation bill was written as making...

The Uptick Rule: SEC Limit on Short Selling Reconsidered

Historically, in much of the popular lore surrounding short selling (borrowing stock with the objective of making a profit if its price falls), the activity has been unfavorably described as a destructive force for both stock markets and the firms whose shares are sold short. In the 1930s, due to concerns that a concerted kind of manipulative short selling known as a bear raid had contributed to the stock market collapse, federal securities regulations were adopted that restricted short selling. Known as the uptick rule, the restriction essentially forbade short sales on stocks unless a...

Debarment and Suspension Provisions Applicable to Federal Grant Programs

Federal agencies have general authority to debar or suspend persons from participating in federal grant programs and other nonprocurement transactions. Grounds for debarment of a federal grantee include criminal or civil convictions for various crimes including fraud, embezzlement, theft, bribery, tax evasion, and making up false claims, among others, as well as other causes indicating a person is not “presently responsible” as a federal grantee. Debarment and suspension in the context of federal grant programs is described in each agency’s regulations, and such provisions may vary for...

Use of Trademarks as Keywords to Trigger Internet Search Engine Advertisements

The use of trademarks in connection with Internet-based advertising has sparked disputes between trademark owners, advertisers, and Internet search engine operators over whether such activity violates federal trademark law. Specifically, trademark owners have expressed concern over the sale of their trademarks by Internet search engines to third parties that want to have “banner” advertisements, “sponsored links,” or “sponsored results” appear on a search results Web page when those trademarked words are entered as a search query. For example, the shoe company Reebok may purchase the...

The Foreign Tax Credit’s Interest Allocation Rules

The foreign tax credit alleviates the double-taxation that would result if U.S. investors’ overseas income were to be taxed by both the United States and a foreign country. U.S. taxpayers credit foreign taxes paid against U.S. taxes they would otherwise owe, and in doing so concede that the country where income is earned has the primary right to tax that income. But the United States retains the primary right to tax U.S.-source income, placing a limit on the foreign tax credit: foreign taxes can only offset the part of a U.S. taxpayer’s U.S. tax that falls on foreign source income. It is...

Tax Treaty Legislation in the 111th Congress: Explanation and Economic Analysis

“Treaty shopping” occurs where a foreign parent firm in one country receives its U.S.-source income through an intermediate subsidiary in a third country that is signatory to a tax-reducing treaty with the United States. Supporters of proposals to curb treaty-shopping argue that it would restrict a practice that deprives the United States of tax revenue and that it is unfair to competing U.S. firms. Opponents maintain that proposals to curb treaty-shopping would harm U.S. employment by raising the cost to foreign firms of doing business in the United States and may violate U.S. tax...

Financial Market Supervision: European Perspectives

The global financial crisis has sparked a debate over the cause and impact of the crisis. Academics and policymakers are searching for changes in the financial system that can correct any perceived weaknesses in the structure of regulation, the content of regulations, and the coverage of financial instruments and activities. Since the onset of the crisis, numerous proposals have been advanced to reform or amend the current financial system to help restore economic growth. In the United States, the Obama Administration has proposed a plan to overhaul supervision of the U.S. financial...

The Financial Crisis: Impact on and Response by The European Union

The European Union (EU) and the United States have taken unusual and extraordinary steps to resolve the financial crisis while stimulating domestic demand to stem the economic downturn. These efforts appear to have been successful, although the economic recovery remains tepid. The economic recession and the financial crisis became reinforcing events, causing EU governments to forge policy responses to both crises. In addition, both the United States and the EU have confronted the prospect of growing economic and political instability in Eastern Europe, Greece, and elsewhere over the impact...

FY2011 Budget Documents: Internet and GPO Availability

This report provides brief descriptions of the budget volumes and related documents, together with Internet addresses, Government Printing Office (GPO) stock numbers, and prices to obtain these publications. It also tells how to find locations of government depository libraries, which can provide both printed copies for reference use and Internet access to the text.

Abbott v. Abbott: Is a Ne Exeat Right a “Right of Custody” Under the Hague Convention?

International child custody disputes figure to increase in frequency as the global society becomes more integrated and mobile. A child custody dispute between two parents can become a diplomatic imbroglio between two countries. Thus in 2000, Members of Congress and Vice President Al Gore backed legislation to grant Cuban refugee Elian Gonzalez permanent residency status, even after President Fidel Castro demanded the boy’s return. More recently, in the 111th Congress, both houses passed resolutions (S.Res. 37 and H.R. 125) calling on the Brazilian government to return Sean Goldman, the son...

Limiting McCarran-Ferguson Act’s Antitrust Exemption for the “Business of Insurance”: Impact on Health Insurers and Issuers of Medical Malpractice Insurance

Narrowing or eliminating the 1945 McCarran-Ferguson Act’s antitrust exemption for the “business of insurance” has been pursued for many years in many Congresses, and in the 111th Congress, there have been at least four measures—three stand-alone bills, and a provision in the House health care reform bill. Unlike prior legislation to eliminate the entire exemption—currently applicable generally to the extent such business is regulated by state law—however, three of the current measures (H.R. 3596, S. 1681, and section 262 of H.R. 3962 (the House-passed health care reform bill)) are...

Small Hydro and Low-Head Hydro Power Technologies and Prospects

Climate change concerns have brought a renewed focus on increased hydropower production as a potential replacement for electricity from fossil fuels. Hydropower currently accounts for about 6% of the electricity produced in the United States, and the generation of electricity from hydropower produces essentially no emissions of carbon. However, since most of the larger, more traditional hydroelectric resources have already been developed, a clean energy rationale for development of small and low-head hydropower resources may now exist.

Power generation from rivers and streams is not...

Credit Counseling Requirements for Consumer Bankruptcy

Section 106 of P.L. 109-8, the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 (BAPCPA), creates credit counseling requirements for consumers seeking to file for bankruptcy under Chapter 7 (governing the liquidation of a debtor’s assets) and Chapter 13 (governing the financial reorganization of a debtor’s assets). BAPCPA amends the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, 11 U.S.C. §109, to require an individual to receive credit counseling before filing a petition for bankruptcy. In certain circumstances, these requirements may be waived. BAPCPA also requires debtors, after they file for...

The Consumer Price Index: A Brief Overview

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is perhaps the most widely reported measure of inflation. A number of federal government programs are regularly adjusted to account for changes in the CPI, such as Social Security benefits and the personal income tax rate schedule. Thus, the behavior of the CPI has important consequences for a large number of people. Many, however, may be unfamiliar with how the CPI is estimated.

For Congress, the CPI is of particular interest because of its significant effect on the federal budget. Changes in the CPI can have substantial effects on both revenues and outlays,...

The Federal Response to Calls for Increased Aid from USDA’s Food Assistance Programs

Domestic food assistance programs typically make up a large portion of federal spending for needy households during economic downturns. The need for, participation in, and the costs of these programs—like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly the Food Stamp program)—have grown dramatically.

In response to the recent downturn, the Administration and Congress have taken major steps to change food assistance program policies to open up program access and to increase federal funding. Most important, SNAP benefits have been increased across the board and eligibility...

Animal Waste and Water Quality: EPA Regulation of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs)

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the release of waste from animal feedlots to surface water, groundwater, soil, and air is associated with a range of human health and ecological impacts and contributes to degradation of the nation’s surface waters. The most dramatic ecological impacts are massive fish kills. A variety of pollutants in animal waste can affect human health, including causing infections of the skin, eye, ear, nose, and throat. Contaminants from manure can also affect human health by polluting drinking water sources.

Although agricultural activities are...

Pandemic Flu and Medical Biodefense Countermeasure Liability Limitation

Division C of P.L. 109-148 (2005), 42 U.S.C. §§ 247d-6d, 247d-6e, also known as the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (PREP Act), limits liability with respect to pandemic flu and other public health countermeasures. Specifically, upon a declaration by the Secretary of Health and Human Services of a public health emergency or the credible risk of such emergency, Division C would, with respect to a “covered countermeasure,” eliminate liability, with one exception, for the United States, and for manufacturers, distributors, program planners, persons who prescribe, administer or...

Social Networking and Constituent Communications: Member Use of Twitter During a Two-Month Period in the 111th Congress

Beginning with the widespread use of e-mail by Congress in the mid-1990’s, the development of new electronic technologies has altered the traditional patterns of communication between Members of Congress and constituents. Many Members now use e-mail, official websites, blogs, YouTube channels, and Facebook pages to communicate with their constituents—technologies that were either non-existent or not widely available 15 years ago.

These technologies have arguably served to enhance the ability of Members of Congress to fulfill their representational duties by providing greater opportunities...

Revising the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for Lead

The Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), under a court order to review the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for lead, announced his decision October 16, 2008, reducing the standard by 90%, from 1.5 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3) to 0.15 µg/m3. EPA also promulgated new monitoring requirements at that time, requiring monitors downwind of any source emitting one ton or more of lead per year and in urban areas with populations of 500,000 or more. In January 2009, the Natural Resources Defense Council and three other groups petitioned EPA for a...

Legal Challenge to the FCC’s Media Ownership Rules: An Overview of Prometheus Radio v. FCC and Recent Regulatory Developments

In December 2007, the Federal Communications Commission relaxed its newspaper/broadcast ownership ban (order released February 2008). The decision raised concerns in Congress about increasing media consolidation that have long been at the forefront of the debate over ownership restrictions. The Commission’s order served to rekindle the discussion of media consolidation and the perceived need to take action to preserve a diversity of voices in the marketplace of ideas. The FCC rule, as this report illustrates, has a history dating back to a previous failed attempt to relax a greater number...

“Orphan Works” in Copyright Law

Orphan works are copyrighted works whose owners are difficult or impossible to identify and/or locate. Orphan works are perceived to be inaccessible because of the risk of infringement liability that a user might incur if and when a copyright owner subsequently appears. Consequently, many works that are, in fact, abandoned by owners are withheld from public view and circulation because of uncertainty about the owner and the risk of liability.

In 2006, at the request of Congress, the U.S. Copyright Office issued its Report on Orphan Works (“Report”). The goal of the Report was to elicit...

Statutory Royalty Rates for Digital Performance of Sound Recordings: Decision of the Copyright Royalty Board

Under the Copyright Act, Internet radio broadcasters, or “webcasters,” that stream copyrighted music to their listeners are obliged to pay royalty fees to the sound recording copyright owners at statutory rates established by the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB). However, some webcasters may also have the option of paying different royalty fees that are privately negotiated with SoundExchange, the entity that collects performance royalties on behalf of sound recording copyright owners and recording artists.

On March 9, 2007, the CRB announced statutory royalty rates for certain digital...

Federal Information Security and Data Breach Notification Laws

The following report describes information security and data breach notification requirements included in the Privacy Act, the Federal Information Security Management Act, Office of Management and Budget Guidance, the Veterans Affairs Information Security Act, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, the Federal Trade Commission Act, and the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Also included in this report is a brief summary of the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI...

Aviation and Climate Change

Aircraft are a significant source of greenhouse gases—compounds that trap the sun’s heat, with effects on the Earth’s climate. In the United States, aircraft of all kinds are estimated to emit between 2.6% and 3.4% of the nation’s total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, depending on whether one counts international air travel. The impact of U.S. aviation on climate change is perhaps twice that size when other factors are considered. These include the contribution of aircraft emissions to ozone formation, the water vapor and soot that aircraft emit, and the high altitude location of the bulk...

The Impact of Medicare Premiums on Social Security Beneficiaries

Most Social Security beneficiaries pay Medicare premiums. Beneficiaries who participate in Medicare Part B (Supplementary Medical Insurance) or Part D (prescription drugs) must pay monthly premiums, unless they qualify for low-income assistance. Part B participants who also receive Social Security must have the Part B premiums automatically deducted from their Social Security checks. Part D participants may choose to have their premiums deducted from their Social Security checks.

Medicare premiums are absorbing a growing share of Social Security benefits. To see the effect of growing...

Border Security: Key Agencies and Their Missions

After the massive reorganization of federal agencies precipitated by the creation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), there are now four main federal agencies charged with securing the United States’ borders: the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which patrols the border and conducts immigrations, customs, and agricultural inspections at ports of entry; the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which investigates immigrations and customs violations in the interior of the country; the United States Coast Guard, which provides maritime and port security; and the...

Charitable Contributions for Haiti’s Earthquake Victims

On January 12, 2010, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti. As of January 25, 2010, the death toll was estimated to exceed 150,000. The earthquake and resulting aftershocks affected approximately 3 million people and caused significant damage to buildings and infrastructure. The earthquake has left an estimated 1 million Haitians homeless.

On January 22, 2010, President Obama signed into law the Haiti Assistance Income Tax Incentive Act (HAITI Act; P.L. 111-126). This legislation accelerates income tax benefits for charitable cash contributions for the relief of earthquake victims....

Terrorist Attacks on Commercial Airlines: Federal Criminal Prohibitions

Federal authorities can and have prosecuted terrorist attacks on commercial airlines under a wide variety of federal statutes. Some of those statutes outlaw crimes committed aboard a commercial airliner; some, crimes committed against the aircraft itself; others, crimes involving the use of firearms or explosives; still others, crimes committed for terrorist purposes. Within each category, the law reaches co-conspirators and other accomplices. Moreover, although most apply when committed within the United States, many apply to terrorist attacks overseas, particularly but necessarily, when...

Obscenity, Child Pornography, and Indecency: Brief Background and Recent Developments

The First Amendment provides that “Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” The First Amendment applies to pornography, in general. Pornography, here, is used to refer to any words or pictures of a sexual nature. There are two types of pornography to which the First Amendment does not apply, however. They are obscenity and child pornography. Because these are not protected by the First Amendment, they may be, and have been, made illegal. Pornography and “indecent” material that are protected by the First Amendment may nevertheless be restricted in...

Displacing Coal with Generation from Existing Natural Gas-Fired Power Plants

Reducing carbon dioxide emissions from coal plants is a focus of many proposals for cutting greenhouse gas emissions. One option is to replace some coal power with natural gas generation, a relatively low carbon source of electricity, by increasing the power output from currently underutilized natural gas plants.

This report provides an overview of the issues involved in displacing coal-fired generation with electricity from existing natural gas plants. This is a complex subject and the report does not seek to provide definitive answers. The report aims to highlight the key issues that...

Job Creation Programs of the Great Depression: The WPA and the CCC

In light of the continuing severe impact on the labor force of the recession that began in December 2007, some members of the public policy community have expressed interest in job creation programs that were enacted to help unemployed workers weather the Great Depression. This report first describes the social policy environment in which the 1930s job creation programs were developed and examines the reasons for their shortcomings then and as models for current-day countercyclical employment measures. It next provides a brief overview of the two job creation programs of the Depression...

Senate Committee Rules in the 111th Congress: A Comparison of Key Provisions

Senate Rule XXVI spells out specific requirements for Senate committee procedures. In addition, each Senate committee is required to adopt rules that govern its organization and operation. Those committee rules then elaborate, within Senate rules, how the committee will handle its business. Rules adopted by a committee may “not be inconsistent with the Rules of the Senate” (Senate Rule XXVI, paragraph 2). Committees may add to the basic rules, but they may not add anything that is in conflict with Senate rules.

This report first provides a brief overview of Senate rules as they pertain to...

Public Transportation Providers’ Obligations Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et seq., is a broad non-discrimination statute that includes a prohibition of discrimination in public transportation. To prevent such discrimination, the ADA imposes several affirmative obligations on transportation providers, including a requirement that providers offer separate “paratransit” service, or accessible origin-to-destination service, for eligible individuals with disabilities. Under the statute, the level of such service must be “comparable” to the level of service offered on fixed route systems to individuals...

Federal Law on Parking Privileges for Persons with Disabilities

State law generally governs parking privileges for people with disabilities. However, federal regulations offer a uniform system of parking privileges, which includes model definitions and rules regarding license plates and placards, parking and parking space design, and interstate reciprocity. The federal government encourages states to adopt this uniform system. As a result, most states have incorporated at least some aspects of the uniform regulations into their handicapped parking laws. This report describes the federal role in parking privileges law, outlines the uniform system’s...

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): Supreme Court Decisions

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is both a grants statute and a civil rights statute. It provides federal funding for the education of children with disabilities and requires, as a condition for the receipt of such funds, the provision of a free appropriate public education (FAPE). The statute also contains detailed due process provisions to ensure the provision of FAPE. Originally enacted in 1975, the act responded to increased awareness of the need to educate children with disabilities, and to judicial decisions requiring that states provide an education for...

Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Perspectives on the Top 20 Emitters and Developed Versus Developing Nations

Using the World Resources Institute (WRI) database on greenhouse gas emissions and related data, this report examines two issues. The first issue is the separate treatment of developed and developing nations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Kyoto Protocol, and the Copenhagen Accord. This distinction has been a pivotal issue affecting U.S. climate change policy. The second issue is the difficulty of addressing climate change through limiting greenhouse gas emissions to a specified percentage of baseline emissions (typically 1990). The data permit...

Redirecting Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) Funds to Other Uses

Following a boom and bust in real estate and a meltdown in financial markets, Congress enacted a program to purchase troubled assets from financial institutions in October 2008. The Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) was created by the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act (EESA, P.L. 110-343). Under TARP, the Secretary of the Treasury is authorized to purchase up to $700 billion of “troubled” assets, including any asset that the Secretary, in consultation with the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, believes the purchase of which will contribute to financial stability. The amount...

Amber Alert Program Technology

Amber Alerts (also referred to as AMBER plans) were created to disseminate information about child abductions in a timely manner. Research has found that most abducted children murdered by their kidnappers are killed within three hours of the abduction. Prompt response to child abductions is therefore deemed critical by many. Amber Alert plans are voluntary partnerships including law enforcement agencies, highway departments, and companies that support emergency alerts. Technologies used for alerts include the Emergency Alert System (EAS), highway message boards, telephone alert systems,...

Using Army Corps of Engineers Reservoirs for Municipal and Industrial Water Supply: Current Issues

Congress has limited the use of Army Corps of Engineers dams and reservoirs for municipal and industrial (M&I) water supply. Growing M&I demands have raised interest in—and concern about—changing current law and reservoir operations to give Corps facilities a greater role in M&I water storage. A reallocation of storage to M&I use from a currently authorized purpose (e.g., hydropower or navigation) changes the types of benefits produced by a facility and the stakeholders served.

While Congress has specifically authorized 91 Corps multi-purpose facilities for M&I supply, it also has...

Direct Assaults Against Presidents, Presidents-Elect, and Candidates

Direct assaults against Presidents, Presidents-elect, and candidates have occurred on 15 separate occasions, with five resulting in death. Ten incumbents (about 23% of the 43 individuals to serve in the office), including four of the seven most recent Presidents, have been victims or targets. Four of the 10 (and one candidate) died as a result of the attacks. This report identifies these incidents and provides information about what happened, when, where, and, if known, why. The report will be updated and revised if developments require.

Overdraft/Bounced-Check Protection

Overdraft protection programs are an optional service offered by financial institutions to consumers. These programs are often referred to as “bounced-check protection” or “courtesy overdraft protection” to distinguish them from the more traditional overdraft lines of credit. Participating institutions cover checks drawn on accounts with insufficient funds and charge a fee. Financial institution representatives state that these programs offer a beneficial service to their customers by covering checks that would otherwise be returned unpaid. Consumer advocates argue that these programs are...

Provisions Supporting Ecosystem Services Markets in U.S. Farm Bill Legislation

Environmental goods and services are the benefits society obtains from the environment and ecosystems, both natural and managed, such as water filtration, flood control, provision of habitat, carbon storage, and many others. Farmers’ participation in providing these types of goods and services began in earnest in the 1990s with the development of watershed approaches incorporating nutrient credit trading and wetlands mitigation banking, and continued with the more recent development of voluntary carbon credit markets. These efforts have triggered further interest in the possibility of...

The National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility: Issues for Congress

The agricultural and food infrastructure of the United States may be susceptible to terrorist attack using biological pathogens. In addition to the economic effects of such an attack, some animal pathogens could cause illness in humans. Diseases that can spread from animals to people are known as zoonotic diseases. Scientific and medical research on plant and animal diseases may lead to the discovery and development of new diagnostics and countermeasures, reducing the risk and effects of a successful terrorist attack.

To safeguard the United States against the introduction of non-native...

Merger Review Authority of the Federal Communications Commission

With the proposed merger between Comcast and NBC/Universal announced recently, Congress has expressed an interest in the process of merger reviews at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission). This report will explain the merger review process at the FCC, as well as highlight some of the difference between the FCC’s process and the more traditional antitrust merger review conducted by agencies such as the Department of Justice (DOJ) or the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Whenever companies holding licenses issued by the FCC wish to merge, the merging entities must obtain...

U.S. Arms Sales: Agreements with and Deliveries to Major Clients, 2001-2008

This report provides background data on United States arms sales agreements with and deliveries to its major purchasers during calendar years 2001-2008, made through the U.S. Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program. In a series of data tables, it lists the total dollar values of U.S. government-to-government arms sales agreements with its top five purchasers, and the total dollar values of U.S. arms deliveries to those purchasers, in five specific regions of the world for three specific periods: 2001-2004, 2005-2008, and 2008 alone. In addition, the report provides data tables listing the...

Iraq: U.S. Casualties

This report presents casualty data compiled by the Department of Defense (DOD) as tallied from the agency's press releases.

Massachusetts Health Reform

As Congress debates the justification for comprehensive health reform and considers various proposals, some states have taken the initiative by enacting reforms to address concerns about health insurance coverage and health care costs, among other issues. Massachusetts is one such state. While Massachusetts has a legislative history full of reforms to its health care system, its most ambitious effort to date was enactment and implementation of a comprehensive health reform law that sought to provide universal health insurance coverage and reduce health care costs at the same time.

In...

Dairy Pricing Issues

A dramatic collapse in farm milk prices late in 2008, which resulted in severe financial stress for many dairy farmers, has generated congressional concerns about “dairy pricing” and the adverse effects of milk price volatility on farmers. Dairy pricing refers to the process of establishing the farm value of milk. The federal government plays a prominent role in that process.

Among the dairy pricing issues are how milk producers receive price signals under existing policy and how that affects their production decisions. Some market participants say that the system does not transmit price...

State Furloughs of Disability Determination Services (DDS) Employees

Initial and continuing determinations of eligibility for the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs are made by state Disability Determination Services (DDS). These DDS agencies are fully funded by the federal government. However, because DDS employees work for the states, rather than the federal government, they are subject to furloughs, hiring freezes, and other personnel actions taken by state governments.

As of October 15, 2009, 10 states had either furloughed or plan to furlough DDS employees, and 6 states have either implemented or...

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): Employment Issues and the 2009 Influenza Pandemic

On June 11, 2009, in response to the global spread of a new strain of influenza, the World Health Organization (WHO) raised the level of influenza pandemic alert to phase 6, which indicates the start of an actual pandemic. This change reflects the spread of the new influenza A(H1N1) virus, not its severity. Although currently the pandemic is of moderate severity with the majority of patients experiencing mild symptoms and making a rapid and full recovery, this experience could change.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities...

The Committee System in the U.S. Congress

Because of the high volume and complexity of its work, Congress divides its tasks among committees and subcommittees. Both the House and Senate have their own committee systems, which are similar but not identical. Within chamber guidelines, however, each committee adopts its own rules; thus, there is considerable variation among panels. This report provides a brief overview of the organization and operations of House and Senate committees.

Deadlocked Votes Among Members of the Federal Election Commission (FEC): Overview and Potential Considerations for Congress

In the mid-1970s, Congress designed the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to be a bipartisan independent regulatory agency. The agency’s structure is intended to guard against partisan enforcement of campaign finance law. Consequently, the six-member Commission has been evenly divided among Democrats and Republicans. The Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) also requires that the Commission muster at least four votes to exercise core functions—meaning that no measure can advance without at least some bipartisan support.

Perhaps because of that structure, however, the Commission has been...

Removing Aliens from the United States: Judicial Review of Removal Orders

This report analyzes the jurisdictional issues in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) by focusing on the procedural mechanisms used to initiate judicial review and the reach of an Article III court's jurisdiction to review a removal order.

Private Health Insurance Provisions of H.R. 3200

This report summarizes key provisions affecting private health insurance in H.R. 3200, America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009, as ordered reported by House Committees on Education and Labor, Ways and Means, and Energy and Commerce. Specifically, this report focuses on Division A (or I) of H.R. 3200 from those committees.

Division A of H.R. 3200 focuses on reducing the number of uninsured, restructuring the private health insurance market, setting minimum standards for health benefits, and providing financial assistance to certain individuals and, in some cases, small employers. In...

Social Networking and Constituent Communication: Member Use of Twitter During a Two-Week Period in the 111th Congress

During the past 15 years, the development of new electronic technologies has altered the traditional patterns of communication between Members of Congress and constituents. Many Members now use e-mail, official websites, blogs, Youtube channels, and Facebook pages to communicate with their constituents—technologies that were either non-existent or not widely available 15 years ago.

These technologies have arguably served to potentially enhance the ability of Members of Congress to fulfill their representational duties by providing greater opportunities for communication between the Member...

Legal Ethics in Immigration Matters: Legal Representation and Unauthorized Practice of Law

The unauthorized practice of law by persons who are not attorneys, ineffective assistance by licensed attorneys, or other unethical conduct can cause irreversible harm to aliens seeking immigration benefits or relief. Aliens may forfeit, temporarily or permanently, the benefits they seek, due in part to the prevalence of unethical conduct targeting a population that some regard as particularly vulnerable to such abuses. In recent years, the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR), the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and various state attorneys general have taken...

The Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP)

This report discusses the Special Inspector General provisions in the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (EESA), which was enacted as P.L. 110-343 on October 3, 2008. This act created a Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP). Under EESA, TARP funds may be used by the Secretary of the Treasury to purchase “troubled assets,” defined to include both mortgage-related financial instruments and “any other financial instrument that the Secretary, after consultation with the Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, determines...

Health Care Reform: Selected Antitrust Considerations

The federal antitrust laws are directed at insuring that markets remain competitive, with the ultimate goal of securing consumer welfare. Antitrust is a means of governing market behavior that is, in essence, the flip side of market regulation accomplished via regulatory oversight. Accordingly, any scheme that affects the functioning of a segment of the market by prescribing or proscribing the behavior of entities that participate in that segment may impact and be impacted by the antitrust laws. That is no less a given in the health care arena than in any other. This report will set out...

China and the Global Financial Crisis: Implications for the United States

Over the past several years, China has enjoyed one of the world’s fastest-growing economies and has been a major contributor to world economic growth. However, the current global financial crisis has significantly slowed China’s economy; real gross domestic product (GDP) fell from 13.0% in 2007 to 8.0% in 2008. Several Chinese industries, particularly the export sector, have been hit hard by crisis, and millions of workers have reportedly been laid off. This situation is of great concern to the Chinese government, which views rapid economic growth as critical to maintaining social...

Measuring Health Care Quality: Measure Development, Endorsement, and Implementation

Problems with quality of health care in the United States earned the attention of the public with, and have steadily gained in importance since, the release of the first in a series of Institute of Medicine (IOM) reports on this topic, “To Err is Human: Building A Safer Health System,” in 1999. The release of the IOM report represented a changing approach to addressing suboptimal health care quality, from one focused primarily on quality assurance to one focused on quality improvement broadly through the realignment of systems of delivering and financing care to incentivize quality of...

Regulation of Naked Short Selling

Short sellers borrow stock, sell it, and hope to profit if they can buy back the same number of shares later at a lower price. A short sale is a bet that a stock’s price will fall. A short sale is said to be “naked” if the broker does not in fact borrow shares to deliver to the buyer. When executed on a large scale, naked short sales can constitute a large portion of total shares outstanding, and can put serious downward pressure on a stock’s price. Critics of the practice characterize it as a form of illegal price manipulation. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in 2004 adopted...

Oil Industry Tax Issues in the FY2010 Budget Proposal

President Obama, in an Earth Day speech, addressed the linkage between the problems he associated with U.S. reliance on imported oil and the importance of a future based more on alternative energy sources. These problems could be partially addressed by reducing what the Administration sees as favorable treatment of the oil and natural gas industries that were designed to increase production of petroleum products.

The FY2010 budget proposal outlined a set of proposals, framed in terms of deficit reduction, or the elimination of tax expenditures, that would potentially increase the taxes of...

The Nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor: A Review of Second Circuit Decisions Relating to Reproductive Rights

On May 26, 2009, Judge Sonia Sotomayor of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit was nominated to replace retiring U.S. Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter. During her tenure with the Second Circuit, Judge Sotomayor has not addressed substantive legal questions involving abortion, such as the extent of the Constitution’s protection of a woman’s right to choose. Judge Sotomayor has, however, authored opinions that have considered the impact of foreign funding restrictions on domestic nonprofit organizations that promote abortion, discussed the effect of forced abortions and...

The Manhattan Project, the Apollo Program, and Federal Energy Technology R&D Programs: A Comparative Analysis

Some policymakers have concluded that the energy challenges facing the United States are so critical that a concentrated investment in energy research and development (R&D) should be undertaken. The Manhattan project, which produced the atomic bomb, and the Apollo program, which landed American men on the moon, have been cited as examples of the success such R&D investments can yield. Investment in federal energy technology R&D programs of the 1970s, in response to two energy crises, have generally been viewed as less successful than the earlier two efforts. This report compares and...

Debate and Motions on the House Floor: Allocation of Time

One of the most defining aspects of consideration of measures in the House and Committee of the Whole is that time is always controlled. There is virtually no circumstance under which a Member speaks on the floor without first knowing in advance how long has been allocated. Ranging from one minute or less to 60 minutes, debate limitations exist on all aspects of floor consideration.

This report, one of a series on legislative process, addresses time limitations associated with selected House floor procedures. Actions that are not debatable, such as the motion to adjourn, the motion to...

Financing the U.S. Trade Deficit: Role of Foreign Governments

The nation’s trade deficit is equal to the imbalance between national investment and national saving. National saving is the sum of household saving, business saving, and public sector saving (a budget deficit equals public sector borrowing). Over the period 2001-2006, the gap between national saving and investment widened, largely because of a fall in private and public saving, causing the trade deficit to widen. (It declined somewhat in both 2007 and 2008 relative to GDP.) To finance the trade deficit, foreign capital must flow into the United States.

Net private capital inflows have not...

Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP): Growth Models Under the No Child Left Behind Act

A key concept embodied in the accountability provisions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB, P.L. 107-110), is that of adequate yearly progress (AYP). In order to be eligible for grants under ESEA Title I, Part A—Education for Disadvantaged Pupils—states must implement AYP policies applicable to all public schools and local educational agencies (LEAs), based primarily on the scores of pupils on state assessments. Schools or LEAs that fail to meet AYP standards for two or more consecutive years face a variety of...

Congressional Budget Resolutions: Consideration and Amending in the Senate

Title III of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 (Titles I-IX of P.L. 93-344, 2 U.S.C. 601-688) (“the Budget Act”), as amended, provides for the adoption of an annual concurrent resolution on the budget (“budget resolution”) by Congress. The Budget Act includes provisions governing the consideration and amending process of the budget resolution, such as establishing points of order, setting time limits on certain motions, amendments, and the budget resolution itself, and restricting the content of amendments.

This report highlights some of the Budget Act’s budget resolution provisions,...

Civil Rights of Individuals with Disabilities: The Opinions of Judge Sotomayor

Judge Sonia Sotomayor was nominated by President Obama to the U.S. Supreme Court on May 26, 2009. This report examines selected opinions written by Judge Sotomayor relating to the civil rights of individuals with disabilities and includes a discussion of cases relating to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness Act (PAIMI), and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). In addition, selected dissents, concurrences, and decisions where Judge Sotomayor joined the majority...

The Labor Market During the Great Depression and the Current Recession

A good deal of commentary has addressed similarities between the recession that began in December 2007 and the Great Depression. Comparisons between the two have extended beyond conditions in financial markets to conditions in the labor market. The analogy appears to be fueled by projections that the unemployment rate could reach double digits in the coming months.

Little if any comparative labor market research has been undertaken, however. To address the situation, this report analyzes the experiences of workers during the 1930s, which encompassed the almost five years of the Great...

The Transition to Digital Television: Is America Ready?

The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (P.L. 109-171), as amended by the DTV Delay Act, directed that on June 12, 2009, all over-the-air full-power television broadcasts—which were previously provided by television stations in both analog and digital formats—would become digital only. Digital television (DTV) technology allows a broadcaster to offer a single program stream of high definition television (HDTV), or alternatively, multiple video program streams (multicasts). Households with over-the-air analog-only televisions will no longer be able to receive full-power television service unless...

Mongolia and U.S. Policy: Political and Economic Relations

Mongolia’s political scene remains democratic but volatile, with the MPRP able to maintain an uneasy dominance. In legislative elections on June 29, 2008, the MPRP increased its legislative margin to 47 seats (up from 39) out of a total of 76 seats, followed by the Democratic Party with 25 seats. After Democratic Party Chairman Tsakhya Elbegdorj declared the elections to have been fraudulent, demonstrators attacked MPRP headquarters in Ulaanbaatar, causing the government to declare a four-day state of emergency in the capital. Ultimately, the MPRP invited the opposition to join in yet...

Prescription Drug Importation: How S. 1232 (S. 525/H.R. 1298) Would Change Current Law

Current law prohibits the importation of a prescription drug by anyone other than its manufacturer. S. 1232 would amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to change that. It would allow commercial and personal-use importation. The legislation would create a detailed set of procedures to address concerns relating to the safety and effectiveness of imported drugs, cost savings to U.S. consumers, and administration of the program. S. 1232 contains the same text as previously introduced S. 525 and H.R. 1298.

The Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act and Preemption Revisited: An Analysis of the Supreme Court Case Altria Group, Inc. v. Good and Current Legislation

The Supreme Court issued its decision in Altria Group., Inc. v. Good on December 15, 2008. The Court, by a vote of 5-4, held that the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act (FCLAA) neither expressly nor impliedly preempted state law claims of fraud. In this decision the Court examined the preemptive effect of section 5(b) of the act (15 U.S.C. §1334(b)) with regard to the claim that light or low-tar nicotine descriptors in cigarette advertising violated the Maine Unfair Trade Practices Act. The decision resolved a split between the circuits—the First Circuit Court of Appeals had...

Water Issues of Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) Electricity in the U.S. Southwest

As the 111th Congress considers energy and climate legislation, the land and water impacts of renewable technologies are receiving greater attention. The cumulative impact of installing numerous thermoelectric power plants on the water resources of the Southwest, a region with existing water constraints, raises policy questions.

Solar Abundance and Water Constraints Converge. Many Southwest counties are premium locations for siting solar electricity facilities, but have constrained water supplies. One policy question for local, state, and federal decision-makers is whether and how to...

Health and Safety Concerns Over U.S. Imports of Chinese Products: An Overview

China is the largest source for U.S. imports, accounting for a 16% of total U.S. imports in 2008. China is a dominant supplier of many imported consumer products. For example, 90% of U.S. toy imports come from China. Numerous reports of unsafe products from China over the past few years, including seafood, pet food, toys, tires, drywall, and medicines have raised concern in the United States over the health, safety, and quality of imported Chinese products. The United States and China have sought to boost cooperation on health and safety issues. For example, China agreed to boost efforts...

The State Secrets Privilege and Other Limits on Litigation Involving Classified Information

This report provides an overview of the protections afforded to government organizations and officials by the state secrets privilege. The state secrets privilege, derived from common law, is an evidentiary privilege that allows the government to resist court-ordered disclosure of information during litigation if there is a reasonable danger that such disclosure would harm the national security of the United States.

FDA Tobacco Regulation: The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009

The 111th Congress is considering legislation that would give the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) broad new statutory authority to regulate the manufacture and marketing of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA). On April 2, 2009, the House passed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (H.R. 1256; H.Rept. 111-58, part 1 and 2). On May 20, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions approved an almost identical bill (S. 982). Similar legislation was first introduced in the 108th Congress and passed...

Medicare: Financing the Part A Hospital Insurance Program

Medicare is the nation’s health insurance program for individuals aged 65 and over and certain disabled persons. Medicare consists of four distinct parts: Part A or Hospital Insurance (HI); Part B or Supplementary Medical Insurance (SMI); Part C or Medicare Advantage (MA); and Part D, the prescription drug benefit. The Part A program is financed primarily through payroll taxes levied on current workers and their employers; these are credited to the HI trust fund. The Part B program is financed through a combination of monthly premiums paid by current enrollees and general revenues. Income...

Medicare’s Recovery Audit Contractor (RAC) Program: Background and Issues

Recovery Audit Contractors, or RACs, are private organizations that contract with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to identify and collect improper payments made in Medicare’s fee-for-service (FFS) program. CMS projects improper FFS payments to amount to approximately $10.4 billion or 3.6% of all paid Medicare claims in 2008. Congress originally required the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to conduct a three-year demonstration program using RACs in the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003 (MMA, P.L. 108-173). In...

Overview of the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA)

The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), 49 U.S.C. § 41705, prohibits discrimination by air carriers against individuals with disabilities. Public attention regarding an airplane passenger who traveled while infected with Extensively Drug Resistant Tuberculosis (XDR-TB) in 2007 raised questions regarding the ACAA’s requirements and guarantees. Additionally, public concern about the 2009 influenza A(H1N1) outbreak may increase congressional interest in air travel regulations. This report briefly discusses the ACAA’s statutory provisions, accompanying regulations, relevant judicial opinions, and...

United States v. Santos: “Proceeds” in Federal Criminal Money Laundering Statute, 18 U.S.C. Section 1956, Means “Profits,” Not “Gross Receipts”

On June 2, 2008, the U. S. Supreme Court, in United States v. Santos (No. 06-1005), vacated convictions of the operator of an illegal lottery and one of his runners who had been charged with conducting financial transactions involving the “proceeds” of an illegal gaming business in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956. The ruling is that “proceeds,” as used in this money laundering statute, means “profits” rather than “gross receipts” of the underlying unlawful activity. The decision combines a plurality opinion interpreting the word “proceeds” in the statute to mean “profits” and a concurring...

Medicaid and Outpatient Hospital Services

On September 28, 2007, a proposed Medicaid rule was published that would (1) change the definition of outpatient hospital and rural health clinic services and (2) change the methods states must use to demonstrate compliance with the federal upper payment limit on outpatient hospital services provided in private outpatient facilities. A number of groups have expressed concern that this rule will have a significant negative impact on coverage of certain services, which may harm Medicaid beneficiaries. On November 7, 2008, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a final...

Unanimous Consent Agreements Establishing a 60-Vote Threshold for Passage of Legislation in the Senate

The Senate frequently enters into unanimous consent agreements (sometimes referred to as “UC agreements” or “time agreements”) that establish procedures for the consideration of legislation that the Senate is considering or will soon consider. In recent practice, such unanimous consent agreements have sometimes included a provision that would require a 60-vote threshold to be met for amendments or legislation to be considered agreed to, rather than the simple majority ordinarily required. These amendments or measures may be of a controversial nature with the potential for causing a...

The Pacific Salmon Treaty: The 1999 Agreement and Renegotiated Annex IV

The Pacific Salmon Treaty (PST) of 1985 requires the United States and Canada to develop periodic bilateral agreements to implement the PST’s conservation and harvest-sharing principles. Beginning in 1993, long-standing disputes prevented such an agreement from being concluded. On June 30, 1999, after many years of heated diplomatic struggles, U.S. and Canadian officials reached a new comprehensive agreement. The 1999 Agreement (1) established abundance-based fishing regimes for the Pacific salmon fisheries under the jurisdiction of the PST; (2) created two bilaterally managed regional...

Reauthorization of the National and Community Service Act of 1990 and the Domestic Volunteer Service Act of 1973 (P.L. 111-13)

The major federally funded community service and volunteer programs in this country are authorized under two statutes: the National and Community Service Act of 1990 (NCSA), as amended, and the Domestic Volunteer Service Act of 1973 (DVSA), as amended. The programs authorized by these statutes are administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service, an independent federal agency.

The NCSA is designed to address unmet human, educational, environmental, and public safety needs, to renew the ethic of civic responsibility, and encourage citizens to engage in national service....

Environmental Exposure to Endocrine Disruptors: What Are the Human Health Risks?

In 2008, Congress banned the use in children’s toys and child care articles of several chemicals known to disrupt normal development and reproduction of mice and rats. The legislation was a response to accumulating scientific evidence supporting the hypothesis that exposure to certain chemicals in consumer products and the environment might be adversely affecting human reproduction, growth, development, or metabolism by interfering with endocrine systems. This report summarizes the science underlying the environmental endocrine-disruptor hypothesis, and describes congressional actions and...

The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act

Lawmakers incorporated the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (H.R. 1), the economic stimulus bill that the President signed into law on February 17, 2009 (P.L. 111-5). The HITECH Act is intended to promote the widespread adoption of health information technology (HIT) to support the electronic sharing of clinical data among hospitals, physicians, and other health care stakeholders. HIT is widely viewed as a necessary and vital component of health care reform. It encompasses interoperable...

Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA): New Requirements and Emerging Implementation Issues

This report will present an overview of issues regarding the implementation of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA). In addition to strengthening the regulatory and enforcement authority of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the new law established new safety standards, such as those for lead content and phthalates, and testing and certification requirements, focusing particularly on children’s products. A range of implementation issues have arisen, including uncertainty about possible exemptions to and appropriate compliance with new standards, compliance with...

The False Claims Act, the Allison Engine Decision, and Possible Effects on Health Care Fraud Enforcement

The False Claims Act (FCA), an important tool for combating fraud against the U.S. government, generally provides that a person who knowingly submits, or causes to be submitted, a false or fraudulent claim for payment to the U.S. government may be subject to civil penalties and damages. Recently, the Supreme Court examined the scope of the FCA in Allison Engine v. United States ex rel. Sanders, in which a former employee of a subcontractor brought an action against other subcontractors who had allegedly submitted a false claim to the prime contractor on a U.S. defense contract. The Court...

Education Matters: Earnings and Employment Outcomes by Educational Attainment

The amount of education in which individuals invest greatly influences their labor market outcomes. For example, highly educated workers on average are better paid than other workers. Four-year college graduates also are less at risk of unemployment; if they should lose their jobs, these displaced workers are more likely than others to find new jobs. The importance of educational attainment to earnings levels has grown over time as well. Concern about the extent of wage inequality in U.S. society arose in part because of the comparatively large increases in real (inflation-adjusted)...

Overview of the Securities Act of 1933 as Applied to Private Label Mortgage-Backed Securities

Mortgage-backed securities that are packaged and issued by private industry participants are required to comply with the Securities Act of 1933. Issuers of so-called private label mortgage-backed securities must either register these securities pursuant to the rules the Securities and Exchange Commission has set forth, or obtain an exemption from registration. Failure to register or fall under an exemption could result in liability for the issuer and other parties involved in the offering. Furthermore, material misstatements or omissions in the offering materials may also result in...

Morning Hour Debates: Current House Practices

On Mondays and Tuesdays, the House of Representatives meets earlier than the hour established for that day’s session for a period called “morning hour debates” (also known as “morning hour speeches”). This period provides a rare opportunity for non-legislative debate in the House; remarks in the House are usually limited to pending legislative business. During morning hour debates, individual Members deliver speeches on topics of their choice for up to five minutes. The majority and minority leaders give the Speaker a list showing how each party’s time for morning hour debates will be...

Parental Involvement Provisions in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)

Requiring or encouraging parents’ involvement in the education of their children has been a long-standing goal of Title I, Part A, Education for the Disadvantaged, authorized by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), most recently amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB, P.L. 107-110). NCLB encourages parents’ involvement by requiring Title I-A schools and local educational agencies (LEAs) to develop, in conjunction with parents, parental involvement policies and school-parent compacts. Schools in LEAs that receive over $500,000 in Title I-A funding must...

The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and Federal Water Rights

The Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act

The Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA, P.L. 103-414, 47 U.S.C. 1001-1010), enacted October 25, 1994, is intended to preserve the ability of law enforcement officials to conduct electronic surveillance effectively and efficiently despite the deployment of new digital technologies and wireless services that have altered the character of electronic surveillance. CALEA requires telecommunications carriers to modify their equipment, facilities, and services, wherever reasonably achievable, to ensure that they are able to comply with authorized electronic surveillance...

FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program: Overview and Issues

Since 1989, the federal government has spent over $96.1 billion for disaster assistance provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Over $4.4 billion of the disaster assistance was for hazard mitigation of natural disasters such as floods, wildfires, hurricanes, tornados, and earthquakes. The unpredictable nature of the location and scale of natural disasters poses a significant fiscal management challenge to Congress. To alleviate the federal costs of disasters, Congress amended the Disaster Relief Act of 1974 in 1988 (P.L. 100-707), which was renamed the Robert T....

Nonambulatory Livestock and the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act

Revelations in early 2008 that cattle were mistreated at a California slaughter plant raised questions about enforcement of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act. Evidence emerged that the plant had permitted nonambulatory (“downer”) cattle to be slaughtered for human food, also potentially jeopardizing food safety. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the largest meat recall ever, alerted school food authorities to destroy any unconsumed products from the plant, and launched an investigation. Since then, animal welfare activists have alleged additional cases of mistreatment...

FDA Guidance Regarding the Promotion of Off-Label Uses of Drugs: Legal Issues

New drugs may not be introduced or marketed without the approval of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). When a person submits a drug application to the FDA for approval, the application includes samples of the proposed labeling. The FDA may refuse to approve an application if the drug is not safe or effective for the specific uses that are reflected in its labeling. An unapproved new use of a drug, also known as an off-label use, is a use not mentioned in the drug’s approved labeling. Although a physician may prescribe a drug for off-label uses, a pharmaceutical manufacturer may not...

Net Neutrality: Background and Issues

As congressional policymakers continue to debate telecommunications reform, a major point of contention is the question of whether action is needed to ensure unfettered access to the Internet. The move to place restrictions on the owners of the networks that compose and provide access to the Internet, to ensure equal access and non-discriminatory treatment, is referred to as “net neutrality.” There is no single accepted definition of “net neutrality.” However, most agree that any such definition should include the general principles that owners of the networks that compose and provide...

The Donor-Donee State Issue: Funding Equity in Surface Transportation Reauthorization

Few issues in the history of the Federal-Aid Highway Program have raised such heated debate as the argument over how closely the program’s payments to the individual states should match the amount of federal highway taxes each state’s highway users pay to the highway account of the Highway Trust Fund (HTF). Referred to as the donor-donee state issue, it is expected to re-emerge during the debate over the reauthorization of federal surface transportation programs. The current authorization, under the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: a Legacy for Users...

Federal Lands Provisions of Economic Stimulus Legislation (P.L. 111-5)

This report discusses the major federal lands provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (P.L. 111-5, H.R. 1). It focuses on provisions in the law related to four federal agencies: the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Park Service. These provisions relate to construction, resource management, and wildland fire management. A comparison of the House- and Senate-passed versions of H.R. 1 also is provided, which includes a discussion of the Centennial Challenge of the National Park Service.

The Tibetan Policy Act of 2002: Background and Implementation

U.S. policy on Tibet is governed by the Tibetan Policy Act of 2002 (TPA), enacted as part of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act of FY2003 (P.L. 107-228). In addition to establishing a number of U.S. principles with respect to human rights, religious freedom, political prisoners, and economic development projects in Tibet, the TPA established in statute the State Department position of Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues; required a number of annual reporting requirements on Sino-Tibetan negotiations, both by the State Department and by the congressionally established...

California Water Law and Related Legal Authority Affecting the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta

The Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta (the Delta) is formed by the confluence of the north-flowing San Joaquin River, the south-flowing Sacramento River, and the San Francisco Bay, to which the delta of the two rivers is linked. The 1,153-square-mile estuary is the hub of California’s extensive water supply system. The Delta provides water to more than 25 million people and habitat for various species, including the threatened delta smelt and endangered chinook salmon. As such, the Delta has endured decades of competing water demands. During this time, the Delta ecosystem has experienced...

Pakistan’s Capital Crisis: Implications for U.S. Policy

Pakistan, a key U.S. ally in global efforts to combat Islamist militancy, is facing a serious capital crisis. In the autumn of 2008, Pakistan was in urgent need of an estimated $4 billion in capital to avoid defaulting on its sovereign debt. The elected government of President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani sought short-term financial assistance from a number of sources, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF), China, and an informal group of nations (including the United States) known as the “Friends of Pakistan.”

The Pakistani government reached an...

Medicaid Regulation of Governmental Providers

On May 29, 2007, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a rule intended to establish control over the use and misuse of intergovernmental transfers in financing the states’ shares of Medicaid costs. The rule clarifies the types of intergovernmental transfers of funds allowable for financing a portion of Medicaid costs, imposes a limit on Medicaid reimbursements for government-owned hospitals and other institutional providers, and requires certain providers to retain all of their Medicaid reimbursements. In addition, the rule would establish documentation requirements...

Human Services Provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

The federal government provides grants-in-aid to states and local governments to provide a range of benefits and human services programs to disadvantaged families and persons. Most such human services are administered, and often designed, at the state and local level. Some human services are provided by community or nonprofit organizations.

The current recession is straining the budgets of state and local governments, putting pressure on many jurisdictions to cut spending or raise taxes, at the same time that these governments potentially face an increase in demand for benefits and...

Climate Change: Science Highlights

Scientific conclusions have become more compelling regarding the influence of human activities on the Earth’s climate. In 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) declared that evidence of global warming was “unequivocal.” It concluded that “[m]ost of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic [human-related] greenhouse gas [GHG] concentrations.”

The IPCC concluded that human activities have markedly increased atmospheric concentrations of “greenhouse gases” (GHG),...

Funding for Workforce Development in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009

On February 13, 2009, both the House and Senate passed the conference version of H.R. 1, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). The primary purposes of the ARRA focus on promoting economic recovery, assisting those most affected by the recession, improving economic efficiency by “spurring technological advances in science and health,” investing in infrastructure, and stabilizing state and local government budgets. The House had previously passed its version of H.R. 1 (House-passed bill) on January 28, 2009, while the Senate passed S.Amdt. 570, an amendment in the nature...

The Evolving Broadband Infrastructure: Expansion, Applications, and Regulation

Over the past decade, the telecommunications sector has undergone a vast transformation fueled by rapid technological growth and subsequent evolution of the marketplace. Much of the U.S. policy debate over the evolving telecommunications infrastructure is framed within the context of a “national broadband policy.” The way a national broadband policy is defined, and the particular elements that might constitute that policy, determine how and whether various stakeholders might support or oppose a national broadband initiative. The issue for policymakers is how to craft a comprehensive...

Selected Laws Governing the Disclosure of Customer Phone Records by Telecommunications Carriers

Telephone records contain a large amount of intimate personal information. Recent years have seen a rise in the use of this information for marketing and even for criminal purposes. The purchase and sale of telephone record information, therefore, became a booming business. Websites and data brokers claiming to be able to obtain the phone records for any phone number within a few days abounded. However, the methods by which these data brokers obtained their information came under intense fire from public interest groups concerned about consumer privacy.

Consumer groups and news outlets...

The Carbon Cycle: Implications for Climate Change and Congress

Huge quantities of carbon are actively exchanged between the atmosphere and other storage pools, including the oceans, vegetation, and soils on the land surface. The exchange, or flux, of carbon among the atmosphere, oceans, and land surface is called the global carbon cycle. Comparatively, human activities contribute a relatively small amount of carbon, primarily as carbon dioxide (CO2), to the global carbon cycle. Despite the addition of a relatively small amount of carbon to the atmosphere, compared to natural fluxes from the oceans and land surface, the human perturbation to the carbon...

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Budget for FY2009

This review gives an overview of the budget of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) requested for the 2009 fiscal year (FY2009) by President Bush on February 4, 2008. Bush Administration priorities for the NOAA budget included restoring funding for some programs that were flat-funded or cut for FY2008; recapitalizing aging facilities, equipment, vessels, buildings, and other infrastructure; and ensuring that NOAA satellite programs meet mission requirements and are kept to schedule.

Nuclear Waste Disposal: Alternatives to Yucca Mountain

Congress designated Yucca Mountain, NV, as the nation’s sole candidate site for a permanent high-level nuclear waste repository in 1987, following years of controversy over the site-selection process. Over the strenuous objections of the State of Nevada, the Department of Energy (DOE) submitted a license application for the proposed Yucca Mountain repository in June 2008 to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). During the 2008 election campaign, now-President Obama lent support to Nevada’s fight against the repository, contending in an issue statement that he and now-Vice President...

Mountain Pine Beetles and Forest Destruction: Effects, Responses, and Relationship to Climate Change

The mountain pine beetle is a native insect of western U.S. pine forests. It survives by killing infested trees, usually individually, but occasionally in epidemics. Mountain pine beetle epidemics are particularly associated with lodgepole pine, a common western tree that typically grows in dense, even-aged stands. The beetle is a seasonally adapted species that thrives in areas where it can complete its life cycle in one year. The beetle has evolved a mass-attack approach to overwhelm tree defenses through large numbers, and adults congregate on large trees under stress. Widespread stress...

An Abbreviated Sketch of the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-457): Criminal Law Provisions

The William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (H.R. 7311), passed both the House and the Senate on December 10, 2008. The President signed it into law on December 23, 2008, P.L. 110-457, 122 Stat. 5044 (2008). Although much of the Wilberforce Act originated in H.R. 3887, most of its criminal provisions did not. Most appeared first in Senate bill S. 3061, the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008, which Senator Biden introduced with a brief accompanying statement on May 22, 2008. Congress ultimately elected to...

Impact of the Abolition of McCarran-Ferguson Antitrust Exemption for the “Business of Insurance”

Identical, bipartisan bills, S. 618 and H.R. 1081, that would have eliminated the antitrust exemption for the “business of insurance” in the McCarran-Ferguson Act (15 U.S.C. §§ 1011-1015), in force since 1945, were introduced in the 110th Congress, and similar legislation may be introduced in the 111th Congress. The impact of S. 618 and H.R. 1081, had they been enacted, is unclear. They would each have amended 15 U.S.C. § 1012(b) to make the antitrust laws and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Act “as it relates to unfair methods of competition” specifically applicable to such business....

Enforcement of the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules

The privacy and security of health information is recognized as a critical element of transforming the health care system through the use of health information technology. As part of H.R. 1, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the 111th Congress is considering legislation to promote the widespread adoption of health information technology which includes provisions dealing with the privacy and security of health records. For further information, see CRS Report RS22760, Electronic Personal Health Records, by Gina Stevens.

P.L. 104-191, the Health Insurance Portability and...

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Proposed Regulations

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has often been described as the most sweeping nondiscrimination legislation since the Civil Rights Act of 1964. As stated in the act, its purpose is “to provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities.” (42 U.S.C. §12101(b)(1)) On June 17, 2008, the Department of Justice (DOJ) issued notices of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) for ADA title II (prohibiting discrimination against individuals with disabilities by state and local governments), and ADA title III (prohibiting...

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): Final Regulations for P.L. 108-446

The 108th Congress passed P.L. 108-446, which reauthorized and revised the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). IDEA is the major federal statute authorizing funds for special education and related services for children with disabilities, and providing detailed due process provisions to ensure that these children receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE). Although much of the basic structure of IDEA has been retained, P.L. 108-446 does make a number of significant changes. Among these are the definition of “highly qualified” teachers, requirements for children’s...

Congress and U.S. Policy on North Korean Human Rights and Refugees: Recent Legislation and Implementation

As the incoming Obama Administration conducts a review of U.S. policy toward North Korea, addressing the issue of human rights and refugees remains a priority for many members of Congress. The passage of the reauthorization of the North Korean Human Rights Act in October 2008 (P.L. 110-346) reasserted congressional interest in influencing executive branch policy toward North Korea. In addition to reauthorizing funding at original levels, the bill expresses congressional criticism of the implementation of the original 2004 law and adjusts some of the provisions relating to the Special Envoy...

527 Organizations and Campaign Activity: Timing of Reporting Requirements under Tax and Campaign Finance Laws

One way that federal law regulates groups participating in election activities is by requiring them to report information on such things as their contributions and expenditures. Reporting requirements are imposed on “political organizations” by the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) and “political committees” by the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA). Some of the requirements are similar; in which case, entities are generally subject to either the ones in the IRC (and report to the Internal Revenue Service) or those in FECA (and report to the Federal Election Commission). Included in the...

Churches and Campaign Activity: Analysis of the Houses of Worship Free Speech Restoration Act and Similar Legislation

In recent years, there has been increased attention paid to the political activities of churches. Churches and other houses of worship qualify for tax-exempt status as Internal Revenue Code § 501(c)(3) organizations. Under the tax laws, these organizations may not participate in political campaign activity. Separate from the prohibition in the tax code, the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) may also restrict the ability of churches to engage in electioneering activities.

Legislation had been introduced in the past several Congresses that would have allowed churches to participate in at...

The Consumer Credit Protection Act: An Overview of Its Major Components

Congress enacted the Consumer Credit Protection Act in 1969, answering President Johnson’s call for consumer credit protection legislation. The original Act consisted of the Truth-in-Lending Act, which was aimed at closing an important gap in consumer information, as well as provisions restricting garnishment of wages and establishing the National Commission on Consumer Finance. Since its enactment, the Consumer Credit Protection Act has been amended several times to add provisions relating to debt collection, credit reporting, credit billing, consumer leasing, and electronic fund...

The Ensuring Continued Access to Student Loans Act of 2008

Federal student loans are made available under two major loan programs authorized under the Higher Education Act (HEA) of 1965, as amended: the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) program, authorized by Title IV, Part B, of the HEA; and the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (DL) program, authorized by Title IV, Part D, of the HEA. Under the FFEL program, private lenders make loans and the federal government guarantees lenders against loss due to borrower default, death, permanent disability, or, in limited instances, bankruptcy. Under the DL program, the federal government lends...

Crop Insurance and Disaster Assistance in the 2008 Farm Bill

The federal government has relied primarily on two policy tools in recent years to help mitigate the financial losses experienced by crop farmers as a result of natural disasters—a federal crop insurance program and congressionally mandated ad-hoc crop disaster payments. Congress has made several modifications to the crop insurance program since the 1980s, in an effort to forestall the demand for supplemental disaster payments. Although the scope of the crop insurance program has widened significantly over the past 25 years, the anticipated goal of crop insurance replacing disaster...

The President’s Management Agenda: A Brief Introduction

This report provides an overview of the President’s Management Agenda, announced by former President George W. Bush in August 2001. The Agenda included five government-wide initiatives: strategic management of human capital, competitive sourcing, improved financial management, expanded electronic government, and performance improvement. Related developments, such as the introduction of a Management Scorecard for gauging agency achievement on the initiatives and development of a program assessment rating tool (PART) for evaluating program performance, are also discussed. This report will...

World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Treaty on the Protection of Broadcasting Organizations

Existing international agreements relevant to broadcasting protections do not cover advancements in broadcasting technology that were not envisioned when they were concluded. Therefore, in 1998 the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) decided to negotiate and draft a new treaty that would extend protection to new methods of broadcasting. The SCCR has not yet achieved consensus on a text.

In recent years, a growing signal piracy problem has increased the urgency of concluding a new treaty, resulting in a decision by...

Campaign Finance: Regulating Political Communications on the Internet

The Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) regulates “federal election activity,” which is defined to include a “public communication” (i.e., a broadcast, cable, satellite, newspaper, magazine, outdoor advertising facility, mass mailing, or telephone bank communication made to the general public) or “any other form of general public political advertising.” In 2006, in response to a federal district court decision, the FEC promulgated regulations amending the definition of “public communication” to include paid Internet advertisements placed on another individual or entity’s website. As a...

The Congressional Review Act and Possible Consolidation into a Single Measure of Resolutions Disapproving Regulations

The Congressional Review Act (CRA) establishes expedited procedures for Congress to disapprove regulations issued by Federal agencies. Disapproval under these procedures requires enactment of a joint resolution that has a specified text and is submitted within 60 days (excluding recesses) after Congress receives the regulation. For these disapproval resolutions, the act provides expedited procedures for Senate consideration and to clear the measure for Presidential action. If the resolution becomes law, the rule not only becomes of no force and effect, but is treated as if it had never...

Federal Voluntary Voting System Guidelines: Issues

The federal Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (VVSG) are a set of technical standards for voting systems that use computers to assist in recording or counting votes. The first version went into effect in December 2007, and a draft second version has been developed. The VVSG replaced the federal voluntary Voting Systems Standards (VSS). The 2005 VVSG are a partial revision of the VSS, with revision focused mainly on accessibility, usability, and security. The 2007 draft is a complete rewrite. Several issues have been raised about the VVSG that may require congressional attention. Among...

Dairy Policy and the 2008 Farm Bill

Two ongoing federal programs that support the price and income received by dairy farmers—the dairy price support program and the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) program—were reauthorized with modifications in the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-246, the 2008 farm bill).

The MILC program allows participating dairy farmers to receive a government payment when the farm price of milk used for fluid consumption falls below an established target price. The enacted 2008 farm bill extends the MILC program through FY2012 at the existing level of support, but increases the...

Discriminatory Pricing and the Robinson-Patman Act: Brief Background and Analysis

The Robinson-Patman (R-P) Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 13, 13a, 13b, 21a, makes it unlawful, with certain exceptions, to knowingly sell goods “in commerce,” for use or sale within the United States, at differing prices to contemporaneous buyers of those goods. The “in commerce” language of Robinson-Patman has been held to mean that the interstate commerce requirement is satisfied only when at least one of the two (or more) sales is made “in the stream of commerce”—that is, across state lines.

Enacted during the Depression at the behest of small grocers who feared the buying power of large and growing...

The Role of the House Minority Leader: An Overview

The House minority leader is head of the “loyal opposition.” The party’s nominee for Speaker, the minority leader is elected every two years by secret ballot of his or her party caucus or conference. The minority leader’s responsibilities involve an array of duties. Fundamentally, the primary goal of the minority leader is to recapture majority control of the House. In addition, the minority leader performs important institutional and party functions.

From an institutional perspective, the rules of the House assign a number of specific responsibilities to the minority leader. For example,...

Regulating Ballast Water Discharges: Legislative Issues in the 110th Congress

Today there is wide agreement on the need for stronger measures to control ballast water discharges from vessels which are a major pathway for introduction of invasive species into U.S. waters, but there are differing views on how best to do that. Current federal authority to manage ballast water, in the Nonindigenous Aquatic Nuisance Prevention and Control Act of 1990, as amended (NANPCA), has been criticized as inadequate. Several states (notably Michigan, California, Minnesota, Oregon, and Washington) have passed or are considering their own ballast water laws, creating concern that...

“Sanctuary Cities”: Legal Issues

Controversy has arisen over the existence of so-called “sanctuary cities.” The term “sanctuary city” is not defined by federal law, but it is often used to refer to those localities which, as a result of a state or local act, ordinance, policy, or fiscal constraints, place limits on their assistance to federal immigration authorities seeking to apprehend and remove unauthorized aliens. Supporters of such policies argue that many cities have higher priorities, and that local efforts to deter the presence of unauthorized aliens would undermine community relations, disrupt municipal services,...

“Fast Track” Procedures to Disapprove Additional Funds Under the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act

The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (EESA, Division A of H.R. 1424, P.L. 110-343) empowers the Secretary of the Treasury to act to stabilize the economy. Should the Secretary wish to have more than $350 billion outstanding under the program, the President must submit a written report to Congress detailing the Secretary’s request and his plan to implement it. The receipt of this report triggers a 15-day period during which Congress may reject the Secretary’s request by enacting a joint resolution of disapproval. This disapproval resolution would be considered in the House and...

Criminal Restitution in the 110th Congress: A Sketch

Congress enacted two restitution provisions in the 110th Congress, one as part of the Identity Theft Enforcement and Restitution Act of 2008 (Title II of P.L. 110-326)(H.R. 5938), and the other as part of the Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-403)(S. 3325). It also devoted considerable time and attention to other restitution proposals that did not see final action before the end of the Congress.

Restitution legislation in the 110th Congress fell into three categories. Some proposals, like the two provisions enacted, create or would have...

Reporting Requirements in the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008

The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (EESA, Division A of H.R. 1424, P.L. 110-343) established numerous reporting requirements regarding a variety of issues, and many of those reports have already been published. The entities charged with preparation of these reports include both new entities established by the act (e.g., the Financial Stability Oversight Board and the Congressional Oversight Panel) as well as agencies and officials who existed before the enactment of EESA (e.g., the Secretary of the Treasury and the Comptroller General of the United States). The recipients of...

Clean Water Act: 110th Congress Legislation on Discharges from Recreational Boats

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is required to develop a regulatory response to a 2006 federal court ruling that vacated a long-standing EPA rule. That rule had exempted discharges associated with the normal operation of vessels from permit requirements of the Clean Water Act. Concern that this ruling could require millions of recreational boaters to obtain permits led to the introduction of legislation in the 110th Congress to exempt these and other types of vessels from water quality regulation. This report discusses background to the issue and bills introduced in the 110th...

Iraqi Civilian Casualties Estimates

This report presents various governmental and non-governmental estimates of Iraqi civilian deaths. The Department of Defense (DOD) regularly updates total U.S. military deaths statistics from Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), as reflected in CRS Report RS21578, Iraq: U.S. Casualties, by Susan G. Chesser. However, no Iraqi or U.S. government office regularly releases publically available statistics on Iraqi civilian deaths. Statistics on Iraqi civilian deaths are sometimes available through alternative sources, such as nonprofit organizations, or through statements made by officials to the...

Federal Income Tax Thresholds for Selected Years: 1996 Through 2009

One principle of tax fairness or equity accepted by many is that households at the low end of the income spectrum, especially those near the poverty threshold, should not be subject to the federal income tax. This report estimates income tax thresholds—the point at which taxpayers have an actual out-of-pocket income tax payment. In addition, the report compares these income tax thresholds to the latest available poverty thresholds for families of different sizes.

The major structural components of the income tax code which influence the income tax threshold levels include the standard...

The Role of the House Majority Leader: An Overview

The majority leader in the contemporary House is second-in-command behind the Speaker of the majority party. Typically, the majority leader functions as the Speaker’s chief lieutenant or “field commander” for day-to-day management of the floor. Although the majority leader’s duties are not especially well-defined, they have evolved to the point where it is possible to spotlight two fundamental and often interlocking responsibilities that orient the majority leader’s work: institutional and party.

From an institutional perspective, the majority leader has a number of duties. Scheduling...

General Revenue Sharing: Background and Analysis

This report provides background and analysis of the general revenue sharing program (GRS) as authorized in the State and Local Fiscal Assistance Act of 1972 (P.L. 92-512, the 1972 Act). The GRS program was extended three times before finally expiring on September 30, 1986. Over the almost 15-year life of the GRS program (1972 through 1986), more than $83 billion was transferred from the federal government to state and local governments. From 1972 to 1980, states received approximately one-third of the grants and local governments received two-thirds. State governments were excluded from...

Iraqi Police and Security Forces Casualties Estimates

This report presents various governmental and non-governmental estimates of Iraqi police and security forces fatalities. The Department of Defense (DOD) regularly updates total U.S. military deaths and wounded statistics from Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), as reflected in CRS Report RS21578, Iraq: U.S. Casualties, by Susan G. Chesser, and has released the monthly pattern of Iraqi security forces deaths. For information on Iraqi civilian deaths, see CRS Report RS22537, Iraqi Civilian Deaths Estimates, by Hannah Fischer. Because these estimates are based on varying time periods and have been...

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Medicare: The 24-Month Waiting Period for SSDI Beneficiaries Under Age 65

Recipients of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits are eligible for Medicare benefits after a 24-month waiting period. This report explains this waiting period and its legislative history. This report also provides information on other programs that may provide access to health insurance during the required waiting period.This report will be updated to reflect legislative activity.

FDA Authority to Oversee Private Laboratories That Analyze Imported FDA-Regulated Food

Industry observers have raised concerns about perceived gaps in food import safety over the past few years. One particular area of concern focuses on imported goods that are released into the United States market after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) detains them under an import alert. Generally, these goods may be released into the market after an importer “provides evidence that the entry is in compliance with federal laws and regulations.” Currently, the FDA does not have express statutory authority to regulate the private labs that test these imported goods for compliance,...

Major Leadership Election Contests in the House of Representatives, 94th-111th Congresses

This report contains data on votes for Speaker of the House for the 94th through 110th Congresses and elections in party conferences or caucuses for major leaders within each party for the 94th through 111th Congresses. It reflects actual balloting on the House floor for Speaker and in the Democratic Caucus and Republican Conference for other positions.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act: Exemptions to the Prohibition on Circumvention

Congress passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in 1998, in part, to help copyright owners protect their exclusive rights against infringement facilitated by digital technologies, including the Internet. Section 1201 of the DMCA outlaws circumvention of any access control devices, such as password codes, encryption, and scrambling, that copyright owners may use to protect access to copyrighted works. The DMCA’s prohibition on circumvention is not absolute, however. In addition to several statutory exceptions to the general anti-circumvention provision, the DMCA authorizes the...

Major Leadership Election Contests in the Senate, 94th-111th Congresses

FEMA Funding for Flood Map Modernization

Winter Fuels Markets

The Energy Information Administration in its Short-Term Energy and Winter Fuels Outlook (STEWFO) for the 2008-2009 winter heating season initially warned consumers of the likelihood of higher heating costs. Average expenditures for those heating with natural gas were forecasted to see their expenditures rise by more than 18%. Home heating oil expenditures were forecast to rise by 23%, propane expenditures by 11% and electric heating expenses by 10%. The forecasted increases in total expenditures result from higher prices for all energy sources, as well as the expectation of a colder winter...

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act: Final Part B Regulations

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) provides federal funding for the education of children with disabilities and requires, as a condition for the receipt of such funds, the provision of a free appropriate public education (FAPE). The statute also contains detailed due process provisions to ensure the provision of FAPE. On December 1, 2008, the Department of Education (ED) issued a final regulation to “clarify and strengthen current regulations” promulgated under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The areas covered by the regulation include (1) parental...

U.S. Oil Exports

Concern about exports of United States crude oil, gasoline, diesel fuel and home heating oil periodically draws Congressional attention to the level of these exports, recently observed to increase from 1.4 million barrels daily in 2007, to nearly 1.9 mbd during January-September 2008. Some policymakers have suggested that prohibiting oil exports would lower prices. Legislation introduced in the 110th Congress (H.R. 6515, S. 2598) included provisions prohibiting some or all oil exports, or would have reimposed the ban on Alaskan oil exports; but no bills received major attention.

Virtually...

Nonforeign Cost-of-Living Allowances and Possible Transition to Locality Pay

This report provides an overview of the history of the nonforeign COLA and locality pay programs; identifies and describes potential changes to the existing nonforeign COLA system, including the possibility of instituting locality pay; and analyzes the potential effects of keeping the existing system or adopting a nonforeign COLA phase-out plan.

Bills, Resolutions, Nominations, and Treaties: Characteristics, Requirements, and Uses

In each chamber of Congress, four forms of legislative measure may be introduced (or, for resolutions, submitted) and acted on: bills, joint resolutions, concurrent resolutions, and resolutions of one house (“simple resolutions”). In addition, under the Constitution the Senate acts on two forms of executive business: nominations and treaties. This report provides a tabular comparison of the formal characteristics and uses of these six different kinds of business. For more information on legislative process, see http://www.crs.gov/¿products/¿guides/¿guidehome.shtml.

U.S. Arms Sales: Agreements with and Deliveries to Major Clients, 2000-2007

This report provides background data on United States arms sales agreements with and deliveries to its major purchasers during calendar years 2000-2007. In a series of data tables, it lists the total dollar values of U.S. government-to-government arms sales agreements with its top five purchasers in five specific regions of the world for three specific periods: 2000-2003, 2004-2007, and 2007 alone, and the total dollar values of U.S. arms deliveries to its top five purchasers in those same regions for the periods 2000-2003, 2004-2007, and for 2007 alone. In addition, the report provides...

Children in Poverty: Profile, Trends, and Issues

Child poverty persists as a social and economic concern in the United States. In 2007 12.8 million children (17.6% all children) were considered poor under the official U.S. definition. In records dating back to 1959, the incidence of poverty among related children in families has ranged from a peak of 26.9% in 1959 to a low of 13.8% in 1969. Poverty affects a child’s life chances; by almost any indicator, poor children fare worse than their nonpoor counterparts.

Family living arrangements, indicated by the presence of just one or both parents, greatly affect the chances that a child is...

Tax Basis: What Is It? Why Is It Important?

“Tax basis” is one factor used to determine the income tax consequences when an item is disposed of, whether by sale, abandonment, or contribution. The initial basis is usually cost; however, the basis of a gift is related to its basis in the donor’s hands, and the basis of inherited property is generally the property’s fair market value on the date of death. The taxpayer’s use of the item and subsequent events may require adjusting the original basis, which leads to the term “adjusted basis.” Adjustments may either increase or decrease the taxpayer’s basis in the property.

On July 30,...

Iran: Ethnic and Religious Minorities

Iran is home to approximately 70.5 million people who are ethnically, religiously, and linguistically diverse. This report discusses these minorities, their treatment under the Islamic regime, and the reactions of international rights groups.

Azerbaijan's October 2008 Presidential Election: Outcome and Implications

This report discusses the win by incumbent Ilkham Aliyev in Azerbaijan's October 15, 2008, presidential election. It describes the campaign and results, and examines implications for Azerbaijani and U.S. interests. This report will not be updated. Related reports include CRS Report RL33453 , Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia , updated regularly.

Pay-for-Performance: Linking Employee Pay to Performance Appraisal

In many occupations today, pay is intended to reflect employee performance—or how effectively, efficiently, or thoroughly one performs his or her job. The federal government is no different from the private sector in this regard. Nearly 300,000 federal employees are currently in pay systems that attempt to make pay increases contingent upon job performance—such a system is often referred to as either a merit-based pay system or a performance-based pay system. A basic challenge with such an arrangement is arriving at credible and objective performance measures. In addition, while the...

Public-Private Partnership for a Public Safety Network: Governance and Policy

This report summarizes salient points of Federal Communications Commission (FCC) actions regarding the creation of a public-private partnership to build and manage a national communications network for public safety use. The Communications Act of 1934, as amended, empowers the FCC to set rules for auctions and to take steps to ensure the safety of the public. The FCC has used this authority to design a governance structure that would allow a Public Safety Broadband Licensee (PSBL) to share spectrum rights with a commercial enterprise and to collaborate in the construction and management of...

Military Airlift: The Joint Cargo Aircraft Program

Joint Cargo Aircraft (JCA) is a joint acquisition program between the Army and Air Force intended to procure a commercial off-the-shelf aircraft capable of meeting Army and Air Force requirements for intra-theater airlift. The C-27J Spartan, built by L-3 Communications, was awarded the JCA contract in 2007. This is an update of a report by William Knight and will be updated as conditions warrant.

The Randolph-Sheppard Act: Major Judicial Decisions

The Randolph-Sheppard Act requires that blind individuals receive priority for the operation of vending facilities on federal property. “Vending facilities” include automatic vending machines, cafeterias, and snack bars. This report will discuss several significant court decisions and recent legislation related to the Randolph-Sheppard Act. Two federal court of appeals decisions, NISH v. Cohen and NISH v. Rumsfeld, held that military troop dining facilities are “cafeterias” under the Randolph-Sheppard Act and that the act controlled over the Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act, which provides...

Tax Gap: Proposals in the 110th Congress to Require Brokers to Report Basis on Publicly Traded Securities

Recent and projected large deficits and the need for revenue to offset spending or tax reduction proposals generated congressional and executive branch interest in reducing the tax gap. Proposals in the 110th Congress to require brokers to report adjusted basis on publicly traded securities sold by individuals are examined in this report because this is a source of revenue. Basis is the amount a taxpayer uses to determine the cost of acquiring an asset, which is used to determine the asset’s capital gain or loss. In order to calculate the appropriate “adjusted basis” for tax calculations...

Charitable Contributions of Food Inventory: Proposals for Change

Tax law provides an enhanced deduction for certain charitable contributions of food inventory. The value of the existing deduction is the corporation’s basis in the donated product plus one half of the amount of appreciation, as long as that amount is less than twice the basis in the product. This deduction has generally been limited to contributions made by a certain type of corporation, C corporations.

The Katrina Emergency Tax Relief Act of 2005 (KETRA, P.L. 109-73) temporarily extended the enhanced deduction to include contributions made by other types of businesses, sole proprietors,...

The Environmental Protection Agency's Brownfields Program: Scope, Authorities, and Implementation

The federal role in assisting states and communities to clean up brownfield sites—real property affected by the potential presence of environmental contamination—has been an ongoing issue for more than a decade. With the enactment of the Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act (P.L. 107-118) in 2002, Congress provided specific authority for EPA to address brownfield sites.

In contrast to Superfund sites, environmental contamination present at brownfield sites is typically less of a risk to human health. With the primary motivation to aid cleanup efforts, the 2002...

Spectrum Management and Special Funds

Congress has acted to create two special funds to hold the revenue of certain spectrum auctions for specific purposes. These funds represent a departure from existing practice, which requires that auction proceeds be credited directly to the Treasury as income. The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (P.L. 109-171, Title III) required the auctioning of licenses for spectrum currently used by TV broadcasters for analog transmissions. It established the Digital Television Transition and Public Safety Fund to receive this auction revenue and use some of the proceeds for the transition to digital...

The U.S. Financial Crisis: Lessons From Chile

Chile experienced a banking crisis from 1981-84 that in relative terms had a cost comparable in size to that perhaps facing the United States today. The Chilean Central Bank acted quickly and decisively in three ways to restore faith in the credit markets. It restructured firm and household loans, purchased nonperforming loans temporarily, and facilitated the sale or liquidation of insolvent financial institutions. These three measures increased liquidity in the credit markets and restored the balance sheets of the viable financial institutions. The Central Bank required banks to...

Federal Railroad Safety Programs: Selected Issues in Proposed Reauthorization Legislation

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is the federal agency primarily responsible for safety in the rail industry. FRA’s safety programs were last authorized in 1994; their authorization expired in 1998. Most measures of rail safety have improved significantly since FRA’s last authorization, including the number of grade crossing collisions and fatalities and the number of employee injuries and deaths. These improvements came while the amount of both freight and passenger rail activity on the nation’s rail infrastructure was increasing. However, the improvements in safety measures have...

Federal Regulation of Substances Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) and the Use of Carbon Monoxide in Packaging for Meat and Fish

The use of carbon monoxide (CO) in the packaging of meat and fish has generated considerable debate. The presence of CO results in the meat turning a bright red color that lasts longer than the color in untreated meat. Additionally, fish treated with CO gain a fresher appearance and a red tint. The meat industry, consumer groups, scientists, and policy makers disagree as to whether the use of CO in meat and fish packaging should be regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), through labeling or otherwise, and whether CO should...

Outer Continental Shelf Leasing: Side-by-Side Comparison of Five Legislative Proposals

This report provides a side-by-side comparison of three bills and two proposals, each of which addresses oil and gas development in the outer continental shelf (OCS). None of the bills has passed its respective chamber. One of the proposals, H.R. 6899, the “Comprehensive American Energy Security and Taxpayer Protection Act,” is expected to come to the House floor the week of September 15, 2008.

The moratoria on oil and gas leasing in much of the OCS has become a major issue in Congress and also in the Presidential campaign. This report describes the background of OCS leasing and the...

Japan’s Political Turmoil in 2008: Background and Implications for the United States

On September 1, 2008, Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda stunned observers by resigning his post, saying that a new leader might be able to avoid the “political vacuum” that he faced in office. Fukuda’s 11-month tenure was marked by low approval ratings, a sputtering economy, and virtual paralysis in policymaking, as the opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) used its control of the Upper House of Japan’s parliament (the Diet) to delay or halt most government proposals. On September 22, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) will elect a new president, who will become Japan’s...

Legal Services in the World Trade Organization (WTO) and U.S. Effect

This report provides a broad overview of the treatment of legal services under the World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements and its potential effect on laws and rules governing the provision of legal services by foreign lawyers in the United States and legal ethics rules.

Federal Government Debt Collection: An Overview of the Treasury Offset and Federal Payment Levy Programs

One of the numerous functions performed by the Financial Management Service (FMS) at the Treasury Department is the collection of delinquent tax and non-tax debt owed to a variety of state governments and federal agencies.

In managing the collection of this debt, the FMS relies on two programs it operates with assistance from several federal agencies: the Treasury Offset Program (TOP) and the Federal Payment Levy Program (FPLP). Both programs allow the FMS to offset or reduce specified federal payments to individuals or companies in order to satisfy qualified tax or non-tax debts. The TOP...

Federal Trade Commission Guidance Regarding Tar and Nicotine Yields in Cigarettes

In 1966, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC or Commission) stated that a cigarette test methodology known as the Cambridge Filter Method or FTC Test Method was the methodology “to be used to support any factual statements of tar and nicotine content of the mainstream smoke of cigarettes.” The FTC statement did not mandate that cigarette companies state tar and nicotine yields on tobacco product packaging, but rather determined “the type of substantiation the Commission would deem adequate to support statements of tar and nicotine yields if cigarette companies choose to make such...

Congressional Review Act: Disapproval of Rules in a Subsequent Session of Congress

The Congressional Review Act (“CRA,” 5 U.S.C. §§801-808) established a special set of expedited or “fast track” legislative procedures, primarily in the Senate, through which Congress may enact joint resolutions disapproving agencies’ final rules. Members of Congress have 60 “days of continuous session” to introduce a resolution of disapproval after a rule has been submitted to Congress or published in the Federal Register, and the Senate has 60 “session days” to use CRA expedited procedures. Although the CRA was considered a reassertion of congressional authority over rulemaking agencies,...

The Budget Deficit and the Trade Deficit: What Is Their Relationship?

In the 1980s expansion, the trade deficit and budget deficit moved together. This pattern re-emerged in the recession and subsequent expansion beginning in 2001. This is the opposite of what happened in the last half of the 1990s, when the budget deficit fell as a fraction of gross domestic product (GDP) and the trade deficit rose sharply as a fraction of GDP. From this experience it is clear that international capital flows, which drive the net balance of trade, do not depend solely on movements in the budget deficit. During the last half of the 1990s, real gross domestic investment rose...

An Emergency Communications Safety Net: Integrating 911 and Other Services

Future 911 systems will use Internet protocols (IP) to facilitate interoperability and system resilience, and to provide better connections between 911 call centers, emergency responders, and alert and warning systems, more robust capacity, and the flexibility to receive calls for help in any format. The National Emergency Number Association (NENA) began planning for these changes under the banner of Next Generation 911, or NG9-1-1, in 2000. Support for NG9-1-1, with its emphasis on IP protocols to provide interoperability and redundancy, now comes from a broad base that includes public...

Disaster Tax Relief for the Midwest

The Midwestern Disaster Tax Relief Act of 2008 (S. 3322 and H.R. 6587) is intended to assist with the recovery from the severe weather that affected the Midwest during the summer of 2008. The Jobs, Energy, Families, and Disaster Relief Act of 2008 (S. 3335) includes some similar provisions, but these are not limited to the Midwest disaster. The disaster relief in the three bills is similar to that provided to assist with the recovery from the 2005 hurricanes and the 2007 Kansas tornadoes. This report broadly discusses the disaster relief provisions in S. 3322/H.R. 6587 and S. 3335.

Congressional Budget Act Points of Order

Title III of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 (Titles I-IX of P.L. 93-344, 2 U.S.C. 601-688), as amended, contains several points of order that are used to enforce congressional budget procedures and substantive provisions of a budget resolution. These points of order prohibit certain congressional actions and consideration of certain legislation. For more information on the budget process, see the CRS Guides to Congressional Processes at http://www.crs.gov/¿products/¿guides/¿guidehome.shtml.

Functional Categories of the Federal Budget

The President’s budget and the congressional budget resolution classify federal budgetary activities into functional and subfunctional categories that represent the major purposes of the federal government. Each budgetary activity of the federal government, including budget authority, outlays, tax expenditures, and credit authority, is classified into a subfunction based on the primary purpose it serves without regard to the agency or other unit responsible for it. The functional categories provide a broad statement of budget priorities and facilitate the analysis of trends in related...

Rowe v. New Hampshire Motor Transport Association: Federal Preemption of State Tobacco Shipment Laws

Maine adopted two laws regarding shipping and delivery sales of tobacco products that were aimed at preventing minors from acquiring tobacco products. In Rowe v. New Hampshire Motor Transport Association, the Supreme Court held that the two Maine laws were preempted by the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994 (FAAAA). That law prohibited states from “enact[ing] or enforc[ing] a law ... related to a price, route, or service of any motor carrier ... with respect to the transportation of property.” In finding that Maine’s mail-order tobacco product delivery laws were...

FDA Authority to Regulate On-Farm Activity

Recent concerns regarding fresh produce contaminated with E. coli or Salmonella have brought attention to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s regulatory authority. Some advocates have requested new FDA food safety regulations, including rules that would regulate activity on farms. One question is whether the FDA has the authority to regulate on-farm activities. H.R. 1108 and S. 625, which would authorize the FDA to regulate tobacco products, would limit the FDA’s authority to regulate activities on certain tobacco farms. However, it appears that the FDA has the authority to regulate...

Whither the Role of Conference Committees: An Analysis

Conference committees have long been known as the “third house of Congress.” They are often the principal forum for resolving bicameral differences on major measures when the House and Senate pass dissimilar versions of the same bills. Current developments suggest, however, that the “third house” characterization might require modification. It is not that conference committees are unimportant, it is that another method for adjusting and reconciling bicameral differences on significant legislation has taken on greater prominence in the contemporary Congress. This method is the exchange of...

International Convention Against Doping in Sport: Issues for Congress

The International Convention Against Doping in Sport seeks to harmonize anti-doping commitments for non-professional sports at the international level. This Convention, adopted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2005, entered into force on February 1, 2007. On July 21, 2008, the Senate approved the treaty for ratification (Treaty Doc 110-14), subject to an understanding, a declaration, and a condition. President George W. Bush signed the instrument of ratification for the treaty on August 4, 2008. Issues that may continue to arise as...

FEMA Disaster Housing and Hurricane Katrina: Overview, Analysis, and Congressional Issues

Some have criticized the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA’s) emergency housing policies, particularly its approach to health and safety standards (as exemplified by the evidence of formaldehyde in both trailers and mobile homes), as well as its overall strategy to perform its housing mission. To address disaster housing issues, Congress could opt to consider questions such as the following: how have disaster housing needs traditionally been addressed under the Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (P.L. 93-288, as amended)? How did FEMA’s approach during...

Europe’s New Trade Agenda

Soon after the Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations came to a standstill in July 2006, the European Union (EU) announced its intention to enter into more bilateral and regional free trade agreements (FTAs). While the EU historically has been a leading force for preferential trade agreements, its main priority from 2001-2006 was negotiating an ambitious Doha Round agreement. Given that the EU is a global economic superpower, its resumption of a bilateral and preferential trade strategy has implications for the global trading system, as well as for U.S. trade interests. As...

Federal Employees: Human Resources Management Flexibilities in Emergency Situations

Federal executive branch departments and agencies have available to them various human resources management flexibilities which can be utilized in emergency situations, such as those which resulted from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and which could occur during a pandemic influenza outbreak. The Office of Personnel Management has issued guidance on these flexibilities, which supplements the basic policies governing staffing, compensation, leave sharing, and telework in Title 5 of the United States Code. Legislation (S. 1000, H.R. 4106, and proposed amendments to S. 3268) to enhance telework...

Community Acceptance of Carbon Capture and Sequestration Infrastructure: Siting Challenges

Congressional policy makers are becoming aware that a national program of carbon capture and sequestration could require an extensive new network of carbon-related infrastructure. Carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) is a three-part process involving a carbon dioxide (CO2) source facility, CO2 pipelines, and a permanent CO2 sequestration site. A key consideration in the development of such infrastructure is community acceptance, which may ultimately determine whether, where, and how anticipated CCS projects may be built. Although the general public is still largely unfamiliar with CCS,...

Balkan Cooperation on War Crimes Issues

Balkan cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague has long been an issue of ongoing U.S. and international concern. On July 21, 2008, the Serbian government announced the peaceful arrest in Belgrade of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, a longtime high-target fugitive who had eluded capture for 13 years. Only two other ICTY indicted individuals are still at large, including Gen. Ratko Mladic, who along with Karadzic is under indictment for genocide and crimes against humanity occurring during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war. Full...

U.S. Forces in Iraq

Varying media estimates of military forces in Iraq have raised concerns about the actual number of troops deployed in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). Last year, a major announcement on a surge in troop deployments to Iraq by President Bush included a planned gradual increase of more than 20,000 U.S. troops on the ground in Baghdad and Anbar province over several months. Since the "new strategy for Iraq" speech by the President in January 2007, troop deployments gradually increased during the months of February through October 2007 but decreased beginning in November 2007. This report...

Department of Defense Fuel Costs in Iraq

Since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the average price of fuels purchased for military operations in Iraq has steadily increased. The disparity between the higher price of fuel supplied to the United States Central Command compared to Iraq’s civilian population has been a point of contention. Several factors contribute to the disparity, including the different types of fuel used by the military compared to Iraqi civilians, the Iraqi government’s price subsidies, and the level pricing that the DOD’s Defense Logistics Agency charges for military customers around the world. The Iraqi...

China’s “Hot Money” Problems

China has experienced a sharp rise in the inflow of so-called “hot money,” foreign capital entering the country supposedly seeking short-term profits, especially in 2008. Chinese estimates of the amount of “hot money” in China vary from $500 billion to $1.75 trillion. The influx of “hot money” is contributing to China’s already existing problems with inflation. Efforts to reduce the inflationary effects of “hot money” may accelerate the inflow, while actions to reduce the inflow of “hot money” may threaten China’s economic growth, as well as have negative consequences for the U.S. and...

Current Law and Selected Proposals Extending Unemployment Compensation

This report examines recent proposals to create a new temporary extension of unemployment compensation. The recent proposals to temporarily extend the duration of Unemployment Compensation (UC) include the proposal in the Senate Committee on Finance Report of the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008 dated January 30, 2008, H.R. 4934, S. 2544, H.R. 5688, H.R. 5749, and H.R. 2642. H.R. 2642 was signed into law on June 30, 2008.

Only sections in the proposals that relate to the extension of unemployment benefits are detailed. Thus, only portions of H.R. 4934 (Title I-Emergency Unemployment...

Iraq: United Nations and Humanitarian Aid Organizations

Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) overthrew Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003 and a permanent (four-year) Iraqi government is now running the day-to-day operations of the country. However, coalition forces continue to combat insurgents and are attempting to improve the security situation in Iraq. According to the Department of Defense, since early 2007 overall violence is down as much as 80%, as a result of the Administration’s “troop surge” strategy.

Elections were held in Iraq for a transitional National Assembly on January 30, 2005, and a permanent constitution was adopted on October 15,...

House Committee Markup: Vehicle for Consideration and Amendment

The markup begins with the chair calling up a particular measure for consideration by the committee. The next action depends on the nature of the “markup vehicle” (i.e., the text that the chair intends for the committee to amend and report), which may be different from the measure laid before the panel for consideration. The vehicle can come before the committee in several different forms, each of which has its own procedural and political consequences.

The chair may lay before the committee either a bill that has been previously introduced and referred, or the text of a draft measure that...

House Committee Markup: Reporting

At the end of the amendment process, the chair normally entertains a motion to report a measure favorably to the House. By House rule, a majority of a committee must be physically present. Once agreed to, a bill is “ordered reported;” it is actually “reported” when the committee report is filed in the House. When the committee orders a bill reported, it is incumbent upon the chair, pursuant to House rule, to report it “promptly” and take all other steps necessary to secure its consideration by the full House.

Reporting reflects the committee’s actions in markup. However, the forms in which...

A Free Trade Area of the Americas: Major Policy Issues and Status of Negotiations

In 1994, 34 Western Hemisphere nations met at the first Summit of the Americas, envisioning a plan to complete a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) by January 1, 2005. Faced with deadlocked negotiations, the United States and Brazil, the FTAA co-chairs, brokered a compromise at the November 2003 Miami trade ministerial. It moved the FTAA away from the comprehensive, single undertaking principle, toward a two-tier framework comprising a set of “common rights and obligations” for all countries, combined with voluntary plurilateral arrangements with country benefits related to...

International Food Aid Provisions of the 2008 Farm Bill

Provision of U.S. agricultural commodities for emergency relief and economic development is the United States’ major response to food security problems in developing countries. Title III in the omnibus farm bill enacted in June 2008, the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-246, H.R. 6124), reauthorizes and makes a number of changes in U.S. international food aid programs. Farm bill debate over U.S. food aid programs focused generally on how to make delivery of food aid more efficient and more effective. While most of the debate focused on P.L. 480 Title II, the largest...

Iran: Profile of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad was elected June 24, 2005, to a four-year term, becoming the first non-cleric president in 24 years. He defeated former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani in a run-off. Prior to his 2005 election to the presidency, Ahmadinejad did not hold an elected office and was a virtual unknown in the international arena. This report covers his background; his victory over the well-known former president Rafsanjani; his remarks about the West, including Israel; and recent visits to Iraq and Latin America.

Free Trade Agreements and the WTO Exceptions

World Trade Organization (WTO) members must grant immediate and unconditional most-favored-nation (MFN) treatment to the products of other members with respect to tariffs and other trade matters. Free trade agreements (FTAs) are facially inconsistent with this obligation because they grant countries who are party to the agreement more favorable trade benefits than those extended to other trading partners. Due to the prevailing view that such arrangements are trade-enhancing, Article XXIV of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) contains a specific exception for FTAs. The...

Agricultural Export Provisions of the 2008 Farm Bill

Agricultural exports, which are forecast by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to reach $108.5 billion in 2009, are an important source of employment, income, and purchasing power in the U.S. economy. Programs that deal with U.S. agricultural exports are a major focus of Title III, the trade title, in the new omnibus farm bill, the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-246, H.R. 6124). The enacted farm bill repeals the major U.S. export subsidy program, and reauthorizes and changes a number of programs that assist with financing U.S. agricultural exports or that help develop...

Debt-Limit Legislation in the Congressional Budget Process

The amount of money the federal government is allowed to borrow generally is subject to a statutory limit (31 U.S.C. 3101). From time to time, Congress considers and adopts legislation to change this limit. This report provides a brief overview of debt-limit legislation within the congressional budget process. For more information on the budget process, see the CRS Guides to Congressional Processes at {http://www.crs.gov/products/guides/guidehome.shtml].

The Tax Reduction and Reform Act of 2007: An Overview

On October 25, 2007, Chairman Charles B. Rangel of the House Ways and Means Committee announced his tax revision proposal, H.R. 3970, the Tax Reduction and Tax Reform Act of 2007. One of the objectives of the plan was to address the problem with the individual alternative minimum tax (AMT), a provision that was originally aimed at high-income taxpayers’ preferences but, because it was not indexed, is increasingly reaching upper middle class taxpayers. The most significant provisions, measured by revenue effect, were a revision in 2007 and subsequent repeal of the AMT (costing $845 billion...

Conservation Security Program: Implementation and Termination

Flood Risk Management and Levees: A Federal Primer

Midwestern flooding and Hurricane Katrina have raised concerns about reducing human and economic losses from flooding. In the United States, local governments are responsible for land use and zoning decisions that shape floodplain and coastal development; however, state and federal governments also influence community and individual decisions on managing flood risk. The federal government constructs some of the nation’s flood control infrastructure, supports hazard mitigation, offers flood insurance, and provides emergency response and disaster aid for significant floods. In addition to...

The HOPE NOW Alliance/American Securitization Forum (ASF) Plan to Freeze Certain Mortgage Interest Rates

In response to the downturn in the U.S. mortgage market, the Bush Administration helped broker an alliance of mortgage lenders, servicers, counselors, and investors called the HOPE NOW Alliance, whose stated goals are to “maximize outreach efforts to homeowners in distress to help them stay in their homes” and to “create a unified, coordinated plan to reach and help as many homeowners as possible.” One aspect of the alliance is the Statement of Principles, Recommendations and Guidelines for a Streamlined Foreclosure and Loss Avoidance Framework for Securitized Subprime Adjustable Rate...

The Spending Pipeline: Stages of Federal Spending

Federal government spending involves a multi-step process in which budget authority is enacted and obligated, and outlays are generated. Budget authority is enacted in law; it provides federal agencies the legal basis to incur obligations. Obligations, which reflect such activities as employing personnel, entering into contracts, and submitting purchase orders, establish financial liabilities of the federal government. Outlays are payments that liquidate these obligations. This multi-step process can be illustrated as a spending pipeline (see Figure 1). For more information on the budget...

The Federal Fiscal Year

The fiscal year is the accounting period of the federal government. It begins on October 1 and ends on September 30 of the next calendar year. Each fiscal year is identified by the calendar year in which it ends and commonly is referred to as “FY.” For example, FY2008 began October 1, 2007, and ends September 30, 2008. For more information on the budget process, see the CRS Guides to Congressional Processes at http://www.crs.gov/¿products/¿guides/¿guidehome.shtml.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act: Comparison of the Senate Amendment to H.R. 3773 and the House Amendment to the Senate Amendment to H.R. 3773

During the 110th Congress, several House and Senate committees have engaged in oversight activities, including hearings and requests for expeditious production of documents and information regarding the Administration’s warrantless foreign intelligence surveillance programs, as possible changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, as amended, (FISA) were explored. In July 2007, an unclassified summary of the National Intelligence Estimate on “The Terrorist Threat to the U.S. Homeland” was released. It expressed the judgment, in part, that the U/S. Homeland will face a...

CFTC Reauthorization

Authorization for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), a “sunset” agency established in 1974, expired on September 30, 2005. In the past, Congress has used the reauthorization process to consider amendments to the Commodity Exchange Act (CEA), which provides the basis for federal regulation of commodity futures trading. The last reauthorization resulted in the enactment of the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 (CFMA), the most significant amendments to the CEA since the CFTC was created in 1974. Both chambers considered reauthorization bills in the 109th Congress, but...

Data Security: Federal Legislative Approaches

During the First Session of the 110th Congress, three data security bills were reported favorably out of Senate committees—S. 239 (Feinstein), a bill to require federal agencies, and persons engaged in interstate commerce, in possession of data containing sensitive personally identifiable information, to disclose any breach of such information; S. 495 (Leahy), a bill to prevent and mitigate identity theft, to ensure privacy, to provide notice of security breaches, and to enhance criminal penalties, law enforcement assistance, and other protections against security breaches, fraudulent...

Navy Ship Deployments: New Approaches—Background and Issues for Congress

The Navy has implemented new kinds of naval formations, more flexible forward-deployment schedules, and a ship readiness plan (called the Fleet Response Plan, or FRP) for surge-deploying several aircraft carriers in a short period of time to respond to contingencies. The Navy has also forward-homeported additional ships, experimented with long-duration deployments with crew rotation (which the Navy calls Sea Swap), investigated multiple-crewing of ships, and is experimenting with a new forward-deployment concept called global fleet stations, or GFSs. These actions raise several potential...

Climate Change: The Kyoto Protocol, Bali “Action Plan,” and International Actions

Concerns over climate change, often termed “global warming,” have emerged both in the United States and internationally as major policy issues. Reports in 2007 by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) provided scientific underpinnings for these concerns, and the number of proposals and international meetings devoted to these issues has grown, as discussed in this report. In December 2007, the meeting of parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) convened in Bali, Indonesia, and agreed on the “Bali Action Plan” to guide...

Charitable Volunteers Mileage Reimbursement

In the 110th Congress, several bills (S. 403, S. 1220, H.R. 606, and H.R. 2020) include proposals to alter the mileage deduction allowed for charitable purposes. Many proposals would allow nonprofit organizations to reimburse volunteers (without income tax consequences) for mileage driven for charitable purposes up to the business mileage rate (set at 48.5 cents per mile for 2007). The taxpayer is precluded from taking a charitable deduction if he/she is reimbursed by the nonprofit entity. Current law allows nontaxable reimbursements by charities up to the charitable mileage rate of 14...

Hubble Space Telescope: NASA’s Plans for a Servicing Mission

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) estimates that without a servicing mission to replace key components, the Hubble Space Telescope will cease scientific operations in 2008. In January 2004, then-NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe announced that the space shuttle would no longer be used to service Hubble. He indicated that this decision was based primarily on safety concerns in the wake of the space shuttle Columbia accident in 2003. Many critics, however, saw it as the result of the new Vision for Space Exploration, announced by President Bush in January 2004, which...

State-Inspected Meat and Poultry: Issues for Congress

Federal law has prohibited state-inspected meat and poultry plants from shipping their products across state lines. The final conference version of H.R. 2419, the omnibus farm bill, amends the Federal Meat Inspection Act and the Poultry Products Inspection Act to permit such interstate shipment under certain conditions.

Limiting state-inspected products to intrastate commerce is unfair, many state agencies and state-inspected plants have long argued, because the 27 currently state-operated programs by law already must be, and are, “at least equal” to the federal system. Meanwhile, foreign...

Memorials: Creating National, State, and Local Memorials

This report provides information on the mandatory steps to building a memorial on federal property in the District of Columbia. It also provides information on creating memorials in Arlington National Cemetery, within the Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery System, and in state veterans' cemeteries. In addition, it discusses public and private initiatives at the state and local levels to create memorials including successful local fund-raising efforts.

House Voting Procedures: Forms and Requirements

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

Cloture: Its Effect on Senate Proceedings

Long known for its emphasis on lengthy deliberation, the Senate in most circumstances allows its Members to debate issues for as long as they want. Further, the Senate has few ways either to limit the duration of debates or to bring filibusters (extended “talkathons”) to an end. For instance, a Senator may offer a non-debatable motion to table (or kill) an amendment or he or she might ask unanimous consent to restrict debate on pending matters. The Senate has one formal rule—Rule XXII—for imposing limits on the further consideration of an issue. Called the cloture rule (for closure of...

Nanotechnology and U.S. Competitiveness: Issues and Options

The projected economic and societal benefits of nanotechnology have propelled global investments by nations and companies. The United States launched the first national nanotechnology initiative in 2000. Since then, more than 60 nations have launched similar initiatives. In 2006, global public investment in nanotechnology was estimated to be $6.4 billion, with an additional $6.0 billion provided by the private sector. More than 600 nanotechnology products are now in the market, generally offering incremental improvements over existing products. However, proponents maintain that...

“Spam”: An Overview of Issues Concerning Commercial Electronic Mail

Spam, also called unsolicited commercial email (UCE) or “junk email,” aggravates many computer users. Not only can spam be a nuisance, but its cost may be passed on to consumers through higher charges from Internet service providers who must upgrade their systems to handle the traffic. Also, some spam involves fraud, or includes adult-oriented material that offends recipients or that parents want to protect their children from seeing. Proponents of UCE insist it is a legitimate marketing technique that is protected by the First Amendment, and that some consumers want to receive such...

Rejection of Collective Bargaining Agreements in Chapter 11 Bankruptcies: Legal Analysis of Changes to 11 U.S.C. Section 1113 Proposed in H.R. 3652—The Protecting Employees and Retirees in Business Bankruptcies Act of 2007

Introduced in the 110th Congress, the Protecting Employees and Retirees in Business Bankruptcies Act of 2007 (H.R. 3652) proposes a number of changes to the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. According to the sponsors, the changes are needed to remedy inequities in the bankruptcy process and to recognize that employees and retirees have a unique investment in their companies through their labor.

The bill contains many proposals for changing the Bankruptcy Code. This report focuses on the amendments and additions to 11 U.S.C. § 1113, which provides the procedures that are to be followed if a debtor in...

Rising Food Prices and Global Food Needs: The U.S. Response

Rising food prices are having impacts across the world, but especially among poor people in low-income developing countries. Since 2000, a year of low food prices, wheat prices in international markets have more than tripled, corn prices have doubled, and rice prices rose to unprecedented levels in March 2008. Such increases in food prices have raised concerns about the ability of poor people to meet their food and nutrition needs and in a number of countries have lead to civil unrest. More than 33 countries, most of which are in Sub-Saharan Africa are particularly affected by food prices...

Avian Flu Pandemic: Potential Impact of Trade Disruptions

Concerns about potential disruptions in U.S. trade flows due to a global health or security crisis are not new. The possibility of an avian flu pandemic with consequences for global trade is a concern that has received attention recently, although some experts believe there is little cause for alarm. Experts disagree on the likelihood of an avian flu pandemic developing at all. This report considers possible trade disruptions, including possible impacts on trade between the United States and countries and regions that have reported avian influenza infections. These trade disruptions could...

Lobbying Regulations on Non-Profit Organizations

Public charities, religious groups, social welfare organizations and other non-profit organizations which are exempt from federal income taxation are not generally prohibited from engaging in all lobbying or public policy advocacy activities merely because of their tax-exempt status. There may, however, be some lobbying limitations on certain organizations, depending on their tax-exempt status and/or their participation as federal grantees in federal programs. Additionally, organizations (other than churches or their affiliates) which meet specified threshold expenditure requirements on...

Additional Standard Tax Deduction for the Elderly: A Description and Assessment

An additional personal exemption for elderly taxpayers was enacted by the Revenue Act of 1948 (P.L. 80-471). The rationale for the provision was to accord the elderly tax relief because the elderly had small incomes and are unable to adjust their incomes in response to increases in the cost of living since they no longer work. Congress attempted to target the tax benefit to low- and moderate-income elderly individuals by substituting an additional standard deduction for the personal exemption amount in the Tax Reform Act of 1986 (P.L. 99-514).

The additional standard deduction for both the...

Additional Standard Tax Deduction for the Blind: A Description and Assessment

In the Revenue Act of 1943, a special $500 income tax deduction was first permitted the blind for expenses directly associated with readers and guides. This deduction for expenses evolved to a $600 personal exemption in the Revenue Act of 1948 so that the blind did not forfeit use of the standard deduction and so that the tax benefit could be reflected directly in the withholding tables. Congress attempted to target the tax benefit to low- and moderate-income blind individuals by replacing the tax exemption with an additional standard deduction amount with passage of the Tax Reform Act of...

Proposals to Merge the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management: Issues and Approaches

The Forest Service (FS) in the Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in the Department of the Interior are both directed to manage lands for multiple uses and sustained yields, but their unique histories have led to different laws, regulations, practices, and procedures in managing resources. The similar missions and neighboring and intermingled lands in separate Cabinet departments have led to frequent proposals, dating back to 1911, to transfer one agency to the other department or to consolidate them into one agency.

Proponents and critics cite various...

Inflation: Core vs. Headline

Inflation measures the rate of change in all prices. Maintaining low and stable inflation is one of the primary goals of macroeconomic policy. But how should inflation be measured? Policymakers, particularly at the Federal Reserve, often refer to core inflation in their policy decisions. Core inflation is commonly defined as a measure of inflation that omits changes in food and energy prices. Some policymakers prefer to use core inflation to predict future overall inflation because food and energy price volatility makes it difficult to discern trends from the overall inflation rate. A...

FEMA Flood Map Modernization Funding

This report discusses the implementation of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)'s Flood Map Modernization (Map Mod) Initiative (FMMI) and its ongoing Map Mod program. FEMA introduced the FMMI in September 1997 as a strategic plan to convert paper flood insurance rate maps (FIRMs) to digital electronic format, or DFIRMs.