Congress at Work: Disaster Assistance, Heroes and Gang Members
The Congress at Work series of articles is designed to give you a glimpse of various types of legislation currently under consideration. While either the Senate or the House of Representatives may initiate a bill proposal, be aware that many bills never become law; they may never make it out of committee, be blocked by a Senate filibuster, be delayed, lack sufficient votes, never be agreed upon by the two houses, or be vetoed by the president.
Continuing Appropriations Act, 2018 and Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Requirements Act, 2017 (H.R. 601) – This act temporarily lifts the nation’s debt ceiling, funding the federal government through Dec. 8, as well as delivering the first installment of emergency aid for victims of Hurricane Harvey. It also temporarily extends the National Flood Insurance Program for the same time frame. The program, which was set to expire Sept. 30, gives Congress more time to pass longer-term legislation. And finally, the bill amends the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 to provide additional direction and scrutiny over U.S. assistance to developing countries for quality basic education—to ensure efforts are aligned with U.S. foreign policy and economic interests. The bill, introduced last January, was sponsored by Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) and signed into law by the president on Sept. 8.
Emergency Aid to American Survivors of Hurricanes Irma and Jose Overseas Act (H.R. 3732) – Sponsored by Rep. David Reichert (R-WA), this bill raises the amount for fiscal years 2017 and 2018 that the Department of Health and Human Services may spend (from $1 million to $25 million) to assist U.S. citizens returning home from foreign countries due to a crisis. Temporary assistance refers to temporary lodging, transportation, and other goods and services necessary for U.S. citizens and their dependents who return from a foreign country and have no resources. The bill was introduced on Sept. 11 and signed into law by President Trump on Sept. 12.
Bob Dole Congressional Gold Medal Act (S. 1616) – This bill authorizes the awarding of a Congressional Gold Medal to Bob Dole in recognition for his service to the nation as a soldier, legislator and statesman. The bill was introduced by Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) on July 24 and was signed by President Trump on Sept. 15.
A bill to provide for the retention and service of transgender members of the Armed Forces (S. 1820) – Introduced on by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), this bill is designed to reinstate the provision to allow transgender people to serve openly in the military. The bill clarifies that there should be no lowering of military or medical standards in order for a transgender person to serve. The bill enjoys some bipartisan support, including that of veteran Sen. John McCain, but has yet to be considered by committee before being sent to the House or Senate as a whole.
Criminal Alien Gang Member Removal Act (H.R. 3697) – This bill would allow deportation of immigrants suspected of gang activity even if they haven’t been convicted of or arrested for a crime. It would also prevent non-Americans suspected of gang activity from coming to the United States. Supporters of the bill claim it is a necessary public safety measure in response to the rise of gangs consisting of immigrants, while detractors say it violates the sanctity of “innocent until proven guilty” provided by the American legal system as well as the right to associate provided by the First Amendment. The bill was introduced on Jan. 5 by Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA) and was passed in the House on Sept. 14. It is currently with the Senate.