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Congress at Work for December 2014

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Congress at Work: Executive Orders and Pending Actions

There’s been much debate lately regarding the legality of a president issuing executive orders. While the Constitution doesn’t exactly state any provision for an executive order, every president has issued some combination of proclamations and executive orders since 1789. To give you a frame of reference for how common the practice is, Ronald Reagan issued 381 orders during his terms, George Bush issued 166, Bill Clinton issued 364, George W. Bush issued 291, and as of October 10, President Obama had issued 191. It’s worth noting that subsequent presidents may revoke, modify or supersede a previous president’s orders, and Congress may amend or repeal the legislation associated with a president’s executive order.

Government Reports Elimination Act of 2014 (H.R. 4194) – This bill enables the elimination or modification of reporting and notification requirements of certain federal agencies and departments. It was initially passed by the House in April, passed by the Senate with changes in September, and the House agreed to the changes on Nov. 12. As of this writing, the bill is awaiting the president’s signature.

To approve the Keystone XL Pipeline (H.R. 5682) – This is the Keystone Pipeline bill that was shot down in the Senate post mid-term elections after it had already been passed in the House. The bill would have enabled TransCanada Keystone Pipeline, L.P. to construct the pipeline and cross-border facilities based on plans submitted back in May 2012. The GOP vows to resurrect a similar bill when the new Congress resumes in January 2015.

National Park Access Act (S. 2104) – This bill, introduced in March 2014, would require the director of the National Park Service to refund all state funds that were used to reopen and temporarily operate a unit of the National Park System during the October 2013 shutdown. It was recommended by committee in November but will need to pass by year’s end or be discarded.

Sunscreen Innovation Act (S. 2141) –This bill would establish a process to allow any person to request that the Secretary of Health and Human Services determine whether an OTC sunscreen active ingredient or combination of ingredients is safe and effective. It has already passed in both the House and the Senate and, as of this writing, is on the president’s desk to sign into law.

Traumatic Brain Injury Reauthorization Act of 2014 (S. 2539) – This bill has passed both the House and the Senate and is waiting to be enacted by the president. It directs the secretary of HHS to develop a plan for the improved coordination of federal activities for traumatic brain injury prevention and surveillance. It also calls for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to review the scientific evidence related to brain injury management in children and identify opportunities for research.

Promoting New Manufacturing Act (H.R. 4795) – Sponsored by Steve Scalise (R-LA), this bill passed in the House on Nov. 20 and has been sent to the Senate. It is designed to promote new manufacturing in the United States by providing greater transparency and timeliness in obtaining necessary permits. Among other provisions, this bill would also require the Environmental Protection Agency to submit an annual report on actions to expedite the process for review of preconstruction permits.

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