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Congress at Work for February 2014

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Congress at Work: Federal Funding, Oversight, Poison Centers and College Football

If Congress awarded its members yearbook superlatives each year, here’s how some members would have fared: Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana (R) introduced the most bills and resolutions (67) in 2013. But while writing a bill is one thing, that doesn’t mean it went anywhere. The most productive legislator was Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas (R), who got the most bills (12) out of committee and on to the floor for consideration. California Rep. Ed Royce (R) and Illinois Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D) led the honors for introducing the most bipartisan legislation last year.

The final tally of bills introduced by both parties in both houses in 2013? Republicans 2,958 versus Democrats 3,632.

Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2014 (H.R. 3457) – We finally have a federal budget bill passed by Congress and awaiting the President’s signature. The $1.1 trillion spending bill funds the operations of virtually every federal agency and program. The agencies responsible for implementing the new health care and Wall Street regulations saw decreases to their budgets, but not devastatingly so. The Head Start early childhood education received funding to keep it running, and disabled veterans and surviving spouses of military members were exempted from pension cuts passed in December. The bill also spared further cuts in the Pentagon’s budget following last year’s $34 billion sequestration reductions. Furthermore, Democratic Rep. Jose Serrano (NY) was able to save a Depression-era post office in his Bronx district from being sold.

Exchange Information Disclosure Act (H.R. 3362) – The House passed a bill that would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to submit regular reports detailing web traffic at the healthcare.gov exchange. Mandatory information would include a state-by-state breakdown of the number of unique website visits, the number of individuals who create an account, the number of individuals who enrolled in a qualified health plan or Medicaid, as well as a detailed description of the problems identified with website functionality, actions taken to address these problems, identity of the contractors involved in remedying these issues, how these actions are being paid for, and the federal officials overseeing the effort. The bill, which was co-sponsored by nine Republicans, has been passed by the House and is currently up for consideration in the Senate.

Poison Center Network Act (H.R. 3527) – Amends the Public Health Service Act to allow grant funds to be used to research, improve, and enhance the communications and response capability of poison control centers throughout the U.S. Proposed enhancements include creating a nationwide poison control toll-free phone number, conducting a campaign to advertise the new toll-free number, and conducting a national media campaign to educate the public and health care providers about poison prevention and the availability of poison control centers in local communities. The bill, which was co-sponsored by five Democrats and four Republicans, has passed both the House and the Senate and has been sent to the President for signing.

A resolution congratulating the Florida State University football team for winning the 2014 Bowl Championship Series national championship (S.Res. 331) – This was a “simple resolution” introduced and agreed to on January 13, 2014. The resolution was introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida (R).

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