So you can remain informed on Washington happenings that may impact at the local level, following are the latest Congressional activities, as reported by the NWYC Congressional Review & Preview Report.
Sexual Assault in the Military: Notwithstanding impassioned debate, the Senate agreed to leave the authority to prosecute rapes with military commanders, as opposed to giving the decision to seasoned military trial lawyers, as a bill proposed. Female senators argue that the military’s mostly male leadership does not understand the differences between relatively minor sexual offenses and serious crimes that deserve swift and decisive justice.
Recidivism Measure Approved by Senate Panel: A bipartisan deal to let prisoners earn reduced jail time advanced through the Senate Judiciary Committee. Under the measure, eligible inmates could engage in a range of activities designed to reduce their risk of returning to criminal behavior, such as vocational training, prison employment, educational programming and substance abuse recovery programs.
RAPID Act: The House passed a measure designed to streamline and increase the efficiency of environmental regulatory review and the permitting process.
The Electricity Security Act: The House passed a measure that would prohibit the EPA from issuing any rule under the Clean Air Act that establishes a performance standard for greenhouse gas emissions from any new source that is a fossil fuel-fired electric utility generating unit.
Delaying the Health Care Mandate: The House passed a measure that would delay until 2015 the requirement in the Affordable Care Act that individuals buy health insurance, changing the penalty for failing to do so from $95 or 1% of income to $0. Democrats charge it is yet another attempt by the GOP to dismantle the healthcare law and the White House threatened a veto of the measure. Republicans say the measure is a means of passing a “Doc Fix” for paying Medicare physicians.
Unemployment Benefits: A group of Republicans introduced legislation that would extend expired unemployment benefits for five months. The bill serves as a counteroffer to a Democratic bill that revives long-term jobless aid for six months. Both bills would extend benefits retroactively to Dec. 28, when long-term unemployment insurance expired.
Democrats want to use a large portion of the new farm law’s savings to pay for the approximate $12 billion price tag on the unemployment benefit six-month extension. Republicans scoff at this idea and want to use a combination of offsets and revenue generators to pay for their five-month bill’s $10 billion cost and make core reforms to unemployment benefits.
12 Appropriation Bills on the Schedule: Top congressional appropriators set an aggressive timetable for fiscal 2015 spending bills pointing toward markups in May and floor action over the summer. The timing of the Defense bill is uncertain because of questions around military operations in Afghanistan. The budget deal already set separate caps for defense and domestic spending, at $521.4 billion and $492.5 billion, respectively