Congress at Work: A Final Budget Bill, Military Support in the Middle East, and Campaign Finance Reform
The “Congress at Work” series of articles is designed to give you a glimpse of various types of legislation currently under consideration. While either the Senate or the House of Representatives may initiate a bill proposal, be aware that many bills never become law. They may never make it out of committee, be blocked by a Senate filibuster, be delayed, lack sufficient votes, never be agreed upon by the two houses, or be vetoed by the president.
Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2019 (H.J.Res. 31) – This is the budget appropriations bill that was finally agreed upon in order to avoid a second government shutdown in February. The bill authorizes funding for government agencies through the end of the fiscal year (Sept. 30, 2019). Among its hundreds of provisions, the bill appropriates the following:
- $12 billion for federal disaster relief,
- $3.16 billion for agricultural research,
- $3.64 billion for rural development,
- $3.3 billion for highway and bridge rehabilitation and construction,
- $1.375 billion to build a physical barrier along 55 miles of the southern border in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas,
- $415 million for humanitarian relief for medical care, transportation, food, and clothing at the southern border.
This legislation was introduced on Jan. 22 by Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA). It was passed by both the House and the Senate on Feb. 14 and signed into law the next day by the president.
Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019 (S. 1) – This was the first legislative bill sponsored by Senate Republicans in the new 116th Congress, largely considered a reflection of their legislative priorities. This bill authorizes several measures in the Middle East, including:
- Re-upping the cooperation agreement between the United States and Jordan to streamline defense sales, secure the country’s borders with Iraq and Syria, and fight ISIS;
- Instituting sanctions against the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria if several conditions are not met, including releasing political prisoners and stopping the targeting of civilian populations;
- Extending an existing loan guarantee program with Israel through 2023; and
- Increasing protections for state and local governments that refuse to invest in or contract with companies that boycott Israel.
This legislation was introduced on Jan. 3, 2019, by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). The bill passed in the Senate on Feb. 5 and is in the House for consideration.
For the People Act of 2019 (H.R. 1) – The first legislative priority of House Democrats in the new 116th Congress was this expansive anti-corruption bill that includes:
- Reforms to election finance campaigns,
- An overturning of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision to eliminate limits on corporate donations, and
- The requirement that presidential candidates publicly release their tax returns.
The legislation was introduced into Congress on Jan. 3 by Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD). It will be considered by a House committee next before possibly being sent on to the House as a whole.
Natural Resources Management Act (S. 47) – This bill was introduced by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) on Jan. 8. It passed in the Senate on Feb. 12 and is now with the House for consideration. This legislation addresses various programs, projects, activities, and studies for the management and conservation of natural resources on federal lands. Its provisions include wildlife conservation, helium extraction, wildland fire operations, the Denali National Park and Preserve natural gas pipeline, and a national volcano early warning and monitoring system.
Social Media Use in Clearance Investigations Act of 2019 (H.R. 1065) – This bill was introduced on Feb. 7 by Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA). It directs the Office of Management and Budget to examine an individual’s social media activity as part of security clearance investigations. This bill passed in the House on Feb. 11 and is now in the Senate.
Put Trafficking Victims First Act of 2019 (H.R. 507) – Sponsored by Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), this bill would direct the Attorney General to study issues relating to human trafficking. The legislation was introduced on Jan. 11 and passed in the House on Feb. 7. It is now with the Senate for consideration.
Fairness for Breastfeeding Mothers Act of 2019 (H.R. 866) – This legislation was introduced on Jan. 30 by Rep. Eleanor Norton (D-DC). It requires certain public buildings to make a lactation room (other than a bathroom) available for use by members of the public. The bill passed in the House on Feb. 6 and is currently in the Senate for review.