Newsletter
Congress at Work for October 2018

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Miniscule Effort to Block Tariffs and Increased Efforts to Aid Veterans, American Indians, Assault and Terrorist Victims

H.R. 4318, H.R. 11822147, S. 717, H.R. 6124, S. 2946,Miscellaneous Tariff Bill Act of 2018 (H.R. 4318) – This bill is designed to cut or eliminate tariffs on articles such as chemicals, footwear, toasters and approximately 1,660 other items made outside the United States. About half of those items are produced in China. The legislation does not void any of the recent 25 percent tariffs imposed on a combined $50 billion of Chinese imports, but it does reduce existing “normal” tariff rates on all the imports listed. For example, a chemical with a 5 percent “normal” import duty that is on both the MTB list and the new list subject to a 25 percent tariff would be exempt from the 5 percent duty only. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) on Nov. 9, 2017 and signed into law by the president on Sept. 13.

Veterans Treatment Court Improvement Act of 2018 (H.R. 11822147) – This bill was introduced by Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) on April 26, 2017 and signed into law by the president on Sept. 17. The bill requires the Department of Veterans Affairs to hire at least 50 Veterans Justice Outreach (VJO) specialists, licensed social workers who help veterans that become involved in the criminal justice system be referred to Veterans Treatment Courts (VTC). VTCs are specialty, diversionary courts dedicated to veteran offenders where the veteran is diverted from the regular criminal justice process to address underlying issues, such as post-traumatic stress disorder or substance abuse. It is the job of a VJO specialist to tailor a structured rehabilitation program for the unique needs of each assigned veteran and to monitor the veteran’s progress in the VTCs.

POWER Act (S. 717) – Introduced by Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK), this bill requires the U.S. Attorney's office in each judicial district to conduct, at least annually, a public event to promote pro bono legal services for survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking, with additional provisions to reach American Indian and Alaskan Natives. The promotion of free legal services is considered a critical means to empower survivors of these criminal acts. The bill was introduced on March 23, 2017, passed by both chambers in identical form on Aug. 15 and signed into law by the president on Sept. 4.

Tribal Social Security Fairness Act of 2018 (H.R. 6124) – Sponsored by Rep. David Reichert (R-WA), this bill authorizes the Social Security Administration to enter into an agreement, when requested by an Indian tribe, to extend Old Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance benefits to tribal council members. The bill also permits tribal council members to receive Social Security credit for taxes paid prior to the establishment of the agreement. The bill was introduced on June 15 and was signed into law by the president on Sept. 20.

Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act of 2018 (S. 2946) – This legislation is designed to help American victims of international terrorism receive justice in U.S. courts by holding accountable those who commit, or aid and abet, terrorist activity abroad. The new bill seeks to correct several flaws in the original anti-terrorism act. This bill was introduced by Rep. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) on May 24. As of Sept. 13, it had passed both houses and is awaiting signature by the president. A companion bill, the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act of 2018 (H.R. 5954) – thus far only passed in the Senate – seeks to to clarify the meaning of the terms “act of war” and “blocked asset” with the goal of enabling victims to be compensated with assets seized from the responsible terrorist organizations.

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