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Congress at Work for September 2014

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Congress at Work: Activity Before the 'District Work Period' (aka 5-Week Summer Vacation)

Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014 (H.R. 3230) – Sponsored by Hal Rogers, a Republican from Kentucky, this is the bipartisan deal passed to provide an additional $17 billion in funding to address the long waits at veterans’ hospitals. It will create 27 Veterans Affairs facilities and expand the types of non-VA hospitals and clinics where veterans can receive care. It will also give the VA secretary more authority to fire senior executives. This bill was enacted and signed by the President on Aug. 7, 2014.

National Nuclear Security Administration Continuing Appropriations Resolution, 2014 (H.J. Res. 76) – Signed by the President on Aug. 4, this is a joint resolution making an emergency supplemental appropriation for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2014, to provide funding to Israel for the Iron Dome defense system to counter short-range rocket threats. The funding provided in this joint resolution is designated as an emergency requirement pursuant to the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985.

Highway and Transportation Funding Act of 2014 (H.R. 5021) – Sponsored by Dave Camp, Republican representative of Michigan, this act is designed to provide an extension of federal aid highway, highway safety, motor carrier safety, transit and other programs funded out of the Highway Trust Fund. This bill, which was signed into law on Aug. 8, authorizes an obligation ceiling of $26,800,569,863 during the period from Oct. 1, 2014, through May 31, 2015.

United States International Communications Reform Act of 2014 (H.R. 4490) – Sponsored by Ed Royce, a California Republican, this act is designed to enhance the missions, objectives and effectiveness of United States international communications. It consolidates RFE/RL Incorporated, Radio Free Asia and the Middle East Broadcasting Network into the (non-federal agency) Freedom News Network. This bill sets requirements regarding: duties and authorities; programming and policy objectives; administration and reporting; and coordination. This bill passed in the House on July 28 and goes to the Senate next for consideration.

21st Century Endangered Species Transparency Act (H.R. 4315) – The objective of this bill is to amend the Endangered Species Act of 1973 to require that the basis for determining what species are endangered or threatened be published on the Internet. Currently, the criteria is based solely on the basis of the best scientific and commercial data available. Historically, this data often included unpublished studies or professional opinions rather than actual data, which was frequently not accessible to the public. Requiring ESA-related data to be available to everyone via the Internet should instill accountability and allow for the transparent review of data and science to justify important policy considerations. The bill, which was sponsored by Doc Hastings, a Republican from Washington, along with 28 other Republicans, passed in the House on July 29 and goes to the Senate next for consideration.

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