Policy Papers

September 18, 2020

Understanding The Federal Reserve Banks

KEY TAKEAWAYS The 12 Federal Reserve banks conduct day-to-day operations for the Federal Reserve System and provide important regional perspectives on the country’s economic conditions. The presidents of these banks rotate terms on the Federal Open Market Committee, a group that meets regularly to make decisions on U.S. monetary policy. The banks have helped implement the Fed’s emergency programs in response to the coronavirus pandemics and taken other steps to support the... Continue Reading

September 10, 2020

Status of U.S. Operations in Afghanistan

KEY TAKEAWAYS The U.S. signed an agreement with the Taliban in February 2020 providing a pathway for peace in Afghanistan. The Taliban and the Afghan government took steps to hold peace talks beginning on September 12, a process set forth by the February agreement. Congress continues to play an important role in the U.S. effort in Afghanistan, and the Senate has overwhelmingly opposed any precipitous withdrawal of U.S. forces from the country.  The United States’ current engagement... Continue Reading

September 10, 2020

Closing the Digital Divide

KEY TAKEAWAYS There is a significant “digital divide” between urban areas that have widespread access to high-speed internet service and rural areas that often don’t; reasons include terrain, population density, demography, and other market factors. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the serious consequences of many Americans having limited access to reliable high-speed internet at home. Senate Republicans have prioritized closing the digital divide and passed legislation to... Continue Reading

September 9, 2020

Understanding the Federal Vacancies Reform Act

KEY TAKEAWAYS Every recent presidential administration has encountered legal difficulties involving the appointment of “acting” officials to Senate-confirmed positions. The Federal Vacancies Reform Act limits who can serve in an acting role and how long they can serve. Violations are significant because private parties can sue to void actions taken by officials serving in violation of the FVRA. While the basic process of presidential appointment and Senate confirmation is common... Continue Reading

September 4, 2020

August 2020 Jobs Report

Unemployment Rate: 8.4 percent Jobs Created: 1.4 million Employment and Unemployment         The Department of Labor bases monthly jobs reports on a survey of businesses and a survey of households. The survey data relate to the pay period or calendar week containing the 12th day of the month. The report generally will not reflect labor market changes near the end of the month. As of mid-August, a little more than half of the states had reopened or were... Continue Reading

September 2, 2020

Status of Major Federal Trust Funds

KEY TAKEAWAYS The federal trust funds that pay for transportation projects, seniors’ health care, and retirement benefits all are expected to run short of funds in the near future. The funds have longstanding structural problems with their spending and revenue that pose risks to the programs that they support. The coronavirus pandemic and the drop in economic activity it caused have worsened the trust funds’ finances and may accelerate when they run out of money.  The federal... Continue Reading

August 26, 2020

Big Tech Faces Antitrust Scrutiny

KEY TAKEAWAYS A handful of technology companies grew very big, very fast by creating popular products and services; now there are widespread concerns they have become too dominant. There has been a growing regulatory, legislative, and legal scrutiny of “big tech,” in the U.S. and the European Union. Members of Congress are divided on whether antitrust law needs to be updated to reflect the digital age, or if the current laws just need to be enforced more rigorously.  The... Continue Reading

August 26, 2020

Antitrust Law 101

KEY TAKEAWAYS Antitrust complaints from the political left are often based on the incorrect assumption that antitrust law prohibits all monopolies. Mere possession of monopoly power is not a sign of anticompetitive behavior or a violation of antitrust law —a company also must abuse that power. The Sherman and Clayton Antitrust Acts, the basis of federal antitrust law, require detailed analysis and careful study before the federal government can prosecute antitrust violations. Antitrust... Continue Reading

August 25, 2020

U.S. Military Strategy in the Indo-Pacific

KEY TAKEAWAYS The 2018 National Defense Strategy commits the United States to maintaining a free Indo-Pacific region.  The Indo-Pacific encompasses three nuclear states, four of the world’s largest militaries, more than half of the world’s population, and some of the greatest challenges to U.S. and global security, including China and North Korea. Senate Republicans play a key role in ensuring the U.S. meets its commitments in the region.  A key objective in the 2018... Continue Reading

August 25, 2020

Responding to the Coronavirus Mental Health Crisis

KEY TAKEAWAYS The COVID-19 pandemic has caused an increase in mental and behavioral health problems, such as anxiety, depression, and substance abuse. Congress and the Trump administration have taken steps to help keep patients connected to the health care services they need during the pandemic. Telehealth has proven to be an effective way of delivering treatment for people with mental and behavioral health conditions.  The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to a national crisis in mental... Continue Reading

August 21, 2020

America Heads Back to School

KEY TAKEAWAYS School districts and colleges are reopening for classes in person, remotely, or using a hybrid model, based on local coronavirus conditions and other factors. While researchers develop vaccines and treatments, schools will rely on additional testing and protection measures such as masks to ensure they can provide a safe, high-quality education. In the CARES Act, Congress gave schools money to adapt to COVID-19 and plan for the coming academic year. Republicans have proposed more... Continue Reading

August 13, 2020

The Changing Gig Economy

KEY TAKEAWAYS Technological innovations and the proliferation of smartphones have driven much of the advancement of the gig, or freelance, economy in recent years.  Gig economy workers have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic and state shutdown orders, though some fields like food delivery have seen an increase in demand. Last year, California passed a law requiring many companies to classify their workers as employees rather than independent contractors; independent contractors get... Continue Reading

August 13, 2020

Short-time Compensation Programs Can Prevent Layoffs

KEY TAKEAWAYS Under state short-time compensation programs, businesses temporarily reduce workers’ hours instead of laying them off, and unemployment benefits partially replace the workers’ lost wages. These programs can help businesses and workers, especially when the economy declines, but they have historically had low participation due to a lack of awareness and other factors.  In the CARES Act, Congress provided money to help states administer and improve their STC programs... Continue Reading

August 12, 2020

Developing COVID-19 Treatments

KEY TAKEAWAYS Congress has provided funds to support the development of safe and effective treatments for COVID-19. Researchers worldwide are exploring more than 300 potential treatments for the disease. Treatment options range from existing drugs that have been widely used for other diseases to entirely new products that seek to tackle the virus in novel ways.  Researchers and drug manufacturers are working to expedite the development of effective and safe treatments for COVID-19. At the... Continue Reading

August 12, 2020

Current Affairs in Nuclear Arms Control

KEY TAKEAWAYS Russia and China are in the midst of programs to expand and modernize their nuclear arsenals, including with new and destabilizing capabilities. The New START treaty between the U.S. and Russia is due to expire in February 2021, and the Trump administration has said that any future arms agreement should include China. Support from Congress for U.S. nuclear modernization is essential to U.S. national security and will strengthen our arms control negotiating position.  The New... Continue Reading

August 7, 2020

July 2020 Jobs Report

Unemployment Rate: 10.2 percent Jobs Created: 1.8 million Employment and Unemployment           The Department of Labor bases monthly jobs reports on a survey of businesses and a survey of households. The survey data relate to the pay period or calendar week containing the 12th day of the month. The report generally will not reflect labor market changes near the end of the month. As of mid-July, at least 20 states had paused their... Continue Reading

August 5, 2020

Preemption of State Tort Law

KEY TAKEAWAYS The HEALS Act contains liability protections that would, among other things, preempt state tort law for coronavirus-related lawsuits, replacing it with uniform federal standards. The founders explicitly intended to allow occasional federal preemption of state law, as shown by the supremacy clause of the Constitution. Congress has preempted state tort law frequently in complex areas of the economy and issues of health and safety, where litigation could otherwise drag on for... Continue Reading

July 31, 2020

Encryption Technology

KEY TAKEAWAYS Strong encryption is essential to the secure operation of public and private sector services, such as banking, medical records, military communications, and the national power grid. Encryption also is used by criminals to hide their activities and identity from law enforcement. The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution strikes a balance between the individual citizen’s reasonable expectation of privacy and the legitimate need for the government to investigate criminal... Continue Reading

July 29, 2020

DHS' Role in COVID-19 Response

KEY TAKEAWAYS The Department of Homeland Security plays a key role in coronavirus response. On March 19, the Trump administration designated the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic. At DHS, Customs and Border Protection, TSA, the Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office, and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency have all taken steps to help protect the public from the impacts of the virus.  On March 13,... Continue Reading

July 28, 2020

Update on the Coronavirus Response: HEALS Act

KEY TAKEAWAYS Congress and President Trump have provided unprecedented support to American families, workers, businesses, and health care providers affected by the coronavirus. Over the last five months, Congress has passed multiple bills to help respond to the coronavirus. This week, Senate Republicans introduced a package of eight additional bills to take the next step in coronavirus response.  On March 13, President Trump declared the coronavirus to be a national emergency. He has used... Continue Reading

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