A Very Productive Start to 2016
In April, the Senate started the appropriations process at the earliest point in the history of the modern budget process.
In addition to its basic duties, the Senate has acted on a broad list of bipartisan bills.
This year, the Senate has voted on nearly 130 amendments.
The Senate has started voting on appropriations bills for fiscal year 2017, the earliest start to this process since the budget rules were written in 1974. This comes on top of an already long list of accomplishments for the Republican-led Senate in 2015 and 2016. This year, the Senate has voted on 129 amendments. Twenty-eight of these were up-or-down votes, 88 were voice votes, 10 were by unanimous consent, and three were motions to waive the budget act.
NORTH KOREA SANCTIONS (FEB. 10)
In response to North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests, the Senate passed the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act. It imposes new sanctions and requires more aggressive implementation of existing sanctions against North Korea. The goal is to deprive this rogue regime of the resources it needs to develop weapons of mass destruction or to threaten the U.S. and our allies. Some parts of this bill are specifically directed at North Korea’s illicit financial activities.
INTERNET TAX FREEDOM (FEB. 11)
Adopted as part of the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act, the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act prohibits any state or local government from imposing taxes on Internet access or imposing discriminatory taxes on electronic commerce. This includes a ban on taxes on email, or higher sales tax rates on Internet sales than the applicable rate for in-person purchases.
OPIOID ABUSE (MARCH 10)
The Senate passed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act to help prevent opioid abuse and overdose deaths. The bill, which passed 94-1, seeks to improve treatment of substance abuse disorders in the criminal justice system; strengthen law enforcement’s ability to counter the trafficking of illegal drugs; expand prevention and treatment; and limit the availability of opioids through drug buyback and prescription drug programs.
TRADE SECRETS (APRIL 4)
The Senate unanimously passed the Defend Trade Secrets Act to provide greater protection for trade secrets. These are confidential, commercially valuable pieces of information that provide a company with a competitive advantage. They include customer lists, methods of production, marketing strategies, pricing information, and chemical formulas. It has been estimated that the U.S. loses as much as 3 percent of our GDP every year due to trade-secret theft.
REAUTHORIZED OLDER AMERICANS ACT (APRIL 7)
Congress renewed the Older Americans Act, bipartisan legislation that supports services that are important to the health and lasting independence of senior citizens. These include things like meals, transportation, and health promotion. For 50 years, the act has provided grants to states to help seniors live more comfortably at home or ensure high-quality care at a nursing home.
FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION REAUTHORIZATION (APRIL 19)
H.R. 636 reauthorized the FAA through fiscal year 2017. The bill improves aviation safety and security, adopts technological innovations, and strengthens passenger rights. Specifically, the bill improves airport security operations; implements recommendations for improving air traffic control technologies known as “NextGen”; address cybersecurity concerns; and deals with federal and local roles for the use of drones.
COMPREHENSIVE ENERGY POLICY MODERNIZATION (APRIL 20)
The Senate passed the Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2016 by a vote of 85 to 12. The bill updates U.S. energy policies to support affordable and reliable energy, generate economic growth, and enhance energy security. The bill modernizes the electric grid; develops hydropower, geothermal, and other resources; enhances cybersecurity; strengthens mineral security; and streamlines approval of LNG exports. It also reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
Republicans committed to repealing Obamacare and sent a bill that does that to the president’s desk this year. Though President Obama vetoed the bill, the preparation done in the process provides a blueprint for “repeal and replace” with a new president.
GIVING THE PEOPLE A VOICE ON THE SUPREME COURT
The Republican Senate continues to guard the American people’s opportunity to have a voice in the selection of the next Supreme Court justice. The court is the final word on some of the most critical questions confronting our nation. The next justice could shift the Supreme Court in a direction that empowers the justices while undermining the rule of law. Before such a radical shift, the American people deserve to have their voices heard through the electoral process.
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