Submitted by: Veronica Coffin
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.
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.
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.
The sweeping legislation addresses disease research, opioid abuse, mental health programs, and drug and medical devices. It’s been called the “biggest health reform bill since the Affordable Care Act.”
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.
- Rep. Ryan Zinke [R, MT-0], Secretary of the Interior
- Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State
- Former TX Gov. Rick Perry, Secretary of Energy
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.
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.
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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.
- Bipartisan group of lawmakers called on FCC Chair Tom Wheeler to extend an exemption of enhanced transparency rules for smaller cable operators that expired this week. House unanimously passed related bill earlier this year.
- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell warned against trying to pass a “trillion-dollar stimulus” and said any tax overhaul should avoid adding to the deficit.
- Sen. Barbara Mikulski bid farewell, the first Democratic woman to win a Senate seat without inheriting it from a dead spouse and the first woman to chair the Senate’s powerful Appropriations Committee.
- Ex-Rep. Chaka Fattah [D, PA-2] was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison on campaign corruption charges.
- House Benghazi committee filed final report, disbanding after two and a half years and $7.8 million.
- Ex-Rep. Aaron Schock [R, IL-18] pleaded not guilty to federal charges that he improperly used campaign and taxpayer money to fund his lavish lifestyle, appearing in court for the first time since a federal grand jury indicted him on 24 felony counts.
- Congress passed Chaffetz bill to enhance watchdogs’ abilities to commandeer agency documents previously held due to privacy concerns.
- Sens. Dick Durbin [D, IL] and Lindsey Graham [R, SC] unveiled legislation to protect young undocumented immigrants from deportation.
- Boeing finalized $16.6 billion agreement to sell jetliners to Iran, completing the first major agreement between a U.S. company and the Islamic Republic.
- Republicans are considering up to a four-year transition period for Obamacare repeal.
- Obamas hosted final Hanukkah celebration, with endearing interruption from Elie Wiesel’s granddaughter.
- Some Senate Democrats are open to working with Republicans on an Obamacare replacement.
- Office of Government Ethics said President-elect Donald Trump should divest his business interests to avoid conflicts of interest, saying transferring ownership to his children while serving as president is not enough.
- Speaker Paul Ryan promoted longtime aide Jonathan Burks to be his new chief of staff, the first African-American to serve as chief of staff to the Speaker of the House.
- House Freedom Caucus outlined agenda for first 100 days.
- FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler will step down on Jan. 20, on the heels of Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel not receiving confirmation to remain as an FCC Commissioner.
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.