GAVEL DOWN: Closing out the Week in Congress (Dec. 12-16, 2016)

December 16, 2016

Submitted by:  Veronica Coffin


POPVOX Gavel Down_Closing Out the Week in Congress Dec. 12-16, 2016


Senate wrapped up work for the year with rare Saturday session…

meaning both the House and Senate closed out business for the 114th Congress. Iran sanctions bill became law without President Obama’s signature, extending sanctions for 10 more years. President Obama signed massive medical cures legislation into law, addressing mental health, opioid abuse, cancer research, and medical devices. President-elect Donald Trump named additional nominees that require Senate approval. Lawmakers weighed in on claims of Russian hacking in the presidential election and requested briefings from intelligence officials.

Iran Sanctions   Medical Cures   Government Funding
Cabinet Selections  |  WRDA  |  ICYMI

Iran sanctions bill became law without President Obama’s signature

Royce bill to extend Iran sanctions for 10 more years became law without President Obama’s signature, a rare constitutional maneuver that hasn’t been used in 21 years.

Last month, the House passed the legislation by a vote of 419-1, with Rep. Thomas Massie [R, KY-4] in opposition and fourteen members not voting. The measure then headed to the Senate where it passed 99-0, with Sen. Bernie Sanders [I, VT] not voting.

President Obama was expected to sign the measure into law but instead decided to send “a message to Congress.”

The Sanctions Act imposes penalties on Iranian industries but gives the president authority to waive those sanctions — as President Obama has done under the terms of the Iran nuclear deal (aka JCPOA).

This legislation gives a future president the authority to “snap-back” sanctions if Iran violates the JCPOA, but the Obama administration maintains that the president already has that authority under a separate law, the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.

President Obama Cures

President Obama signed medical cures legislation into law

The 21st Century Cures legislation you’ve been hearing about is now law. President Obama signed the legislation on Tuesday — view the full signing ceremony.

The sweeping legislation addresses disease researchopioid abusemental health programs, and drug and medical devices. It’s been called the “biggest health reform bill since the Affordable Care Act.”

Earlier this month the Senate passed the legislative package by a vote of 94-5, while the House cleared it 392-26.
See how your Representative and Senators voted on this legislation!

Congress passed stopgap spending bill, funding the government through April 2017

This time last week the Senate was still debating a continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government through April 28, 2017. Senators ended up having a late night, working well into the morning and passing over 70 pieces of legislation.

The CR funds the government at current levels, with a slight boost to defense spending. It also includes funding for Flint, Michigan ($170 million) and Cures legislation ($872 million).

A group of Democratic senators held up passage over coal miner health benefits. The CR extended soon-expiring benefits for four months, whereas Senate Democrats wanted a full year of coverage.

Ultimately, the Senate passed the CR by a vote of 63-36, with Sen. Tom Cotton [R, AR] not voting, and averted a government shutdown.
See how your Representative and Senators
voted on the CR!

POPVOX Presidential Nominations

Cabinet selections continued,
Senate Judiciary released nominee questionnaire

This week the Trump administration announced nominees for three positions that require Senate approval.

President-elect Trump also announced retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg as Chief of Staff and Fox News commentator Monica Crowley as Senior Director of Strategic Communications for the National Security Council (NSC). The Council will be limited to 200 staff members, per provision in NDAA.

This week, the Trump transition team announced plans to name David Friedman, a bankruptcy lawyer known for hardline views on Palestine, to serve as ambassador to Israel. Ambassadors must also be confirmed by the Senate.

Meanwhile, Senate Judiciary posted the questionnaire for Sen. Jeff Sessions’s attorney general nomination and scheduled two-day confirmation hearing for Jan. 10-11, half the number of days requested by Senate Democrats. Committees hold confirmation hearings and refer nominations to the full Senate for final vote. Here’s a list of committee jurisdictions. Learn more about the Senate’s role in the nomination and confirmation process, and catch up on other selections.

Congress passed water infrastructure bill

During the Senate’s marathon session last Friday, the chamber passed WRDA legislation (renamed the WIIN Act) by a vote of 78-21. The final legislation includes emergency aid for Flint, Michigan and drought relief for California. Retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer [D, CA] ended her career with a filibuster over surprise rider in the legislation.

The nearly $12 billion measure now heads to President Obama for approval.
See how your Representative and Senators voted on the WIIN Act

Please note: POPVOX in transition for 2017

A shiny new POPVOX is coming in January, and our team is busy getting it ready for you! Over the next few weeks, there may be a few hiccups.
We thank you for your patience and your feedback!

Lawmakers weighed in on claims of Russian hacking

This week you heard a lot about Russia — based on CIA conclusion that Russia intervened in the 2016 election with the primary aim of making Donald Trump president. Several lawmakers weighed in and requested briefings. Sens. John McCain [R, AZ] and Chuck Schumer [D, NY] called for a congressional investigation into Russian hacking. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell rejected special committee for Russian hacking allegations, saying the investigation should instead be handled by the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Meanwhile, the intelligence community refused to provide the House Intelligence Committee with a requested briefing on Russian hacking, citing the ongoing review requested by President Obama. On Thursday, the CIA denied a request from Senate Homeland Security Chair Ron Johnson for a briefing on Russia’s involvement in the 2016 presidential election, making him the second national security chair this week to be denied information from intelligence officials.

President Obama ended the year with a final speech regarding these claims, as well as Aleppo and presidential transition. President Obama said the U.S. will retaliate against Russia for its hacking and efforts to influence the election.


Please keep in mind that highlighting a bill does not imply POPVOX endorsement in any way. As always, our goal is to offer one more way to help you stay informed about the complex U.S. legislative system.


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