A review of laws passed in the 115th Congress – laws that do not overturn previously passed regulations

A review of laws passed in the 115th Congress – laws that do not overturn previously passed regulations

As of the April 2017 recess 22 new laws have passed the United States Congress and been signed by the President. Five laws were introduced by the Senate, thus 17 were introduced by the House and 21 laws were introduced by Republicans. 11 laws overturned regulations created under the Obama presidency via The Congressional Review Act and no laws created new regulations, programs or policies. In other words there was much undone with little created. The 11 laws that overturned regulations will be looked at in detail over the next few blog posts. Today’s post will review the 11 laws that did not use The Congressional Review Act.

Five laws are linked to military issues. Starting with the least controversial laws first, two laws (HR 609 and HR 1362) gave new names to specific VA clinics, one in PA and one in American Samoa; one law (S. 305) made National Vietnam Veterans Day (3/29) a day on which to display the flag; and one law (SJ. Res 1) approved the location of a memorial in Washington D.C. for those who served in Operation Desert Storm and Operation Desert Shield. The most controversial law, having to do with the military, was introduced by Senator John McCain. The law (S. 84) allowed for, “the first person appointed, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, as Secretary of Defense after the date of the enactment of this Act may be a person who is, on the date of appointment, within seven years after relief, but not within three years after relief, from active duty as a commissioned officer of a regular component of the Armed Forces” (https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/84/text?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22S.+84%22%5D%7D&r=1). This law came to be because Mr. Trump’s desired Secretary of Defense, Jim Mattis, did not meet the then requirement of having been retired from the military for a minimum of 7 years (he has been retired for 3 years) and so the law was changed to make a onetime exception thus allowing Mattis to become our current Secretary of Defense.

As noted, 21 laws were introduced by Republicans. The one law (HR 255) sponsored by a Democrat, Rep. Elizabeth Esty from CT, the “Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act” aims to address the fact that less than 25% of professionals within the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields are women (https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/255/text?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22HR+255%22%5D%7D&r=1). This is achieved by authorizing the National Science Foundation to, “encourage its entrepreneurial programs to recruit and support women to extend their focus beyond the laboratory and into the commercial world” (source: same as last link). A second law (HR 321) also aims to encourage women to study STEM, this time the government agency involved is NASA. HR 321 states that NASA will encourage women to peruse STEM by inspiring little girls via various initiatives that NASA has (https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/321?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22HR+321%22%5D%7D&r=1). Staying with NASA, Senator Ted Cruz introduced S. 442, which authorizes NASA to be funded for fiscal year 2017. The law delineates what the focus of NASA should be, what programs are to be pursued and also supports public-private partnerships – even reading the table of contents of the bill is interesting and let’s be honest, kind of exciting (https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/442/text?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22s.+442%22%5D%7D&r=1).

The final three laws that came into being without The Congressional Review Act have to do with government affairs. H.R. 1228 approved the process for appointing the Board of Directors for the Office of Compliance, which oversees the work environment, etc… of the 30,000 nationwide employees of Congress (http://www.compliance.gov/about-ooc). H.R. 72 ensured that the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which is an independent non-partisan agency that investigates how the government spends taxpayer dollars (http://www.gao.gov/about/index.html), can, “obtain federal agency records required to discharge the GAO’s duties (including audit, evaluation, and investigative duties), including through bringing civil actions to require an agency to produce a record” (https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/72?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22H.R.+72%22%5D%7D&r=1). While HR 39 continues a program within the General Services Administration, which is the administration that does all federal government procurement (https://gsa.gov/portal/category/21354), “to encourage successful entrepreneurs, executives, and innovators to join the government and work in close cooperation with government leaders [via time-limited appointments] to create meaningful solutions that can help save lives and taxpayer money, fuel job creation, and significantly improve how the government serves the American people” (https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/39?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22H.R.+39%22%5D%7D&r=1). Of slight irony is that this law codifies a presidential order of Obama’s, specifically Executive Order 13704 (source: same as last link).

Of course all of these bills were voted on in the House of Representatives but not all were voted on via a roll call vote. Skipping the complexities of the various options for how the House can vote, there are two options for voting. The first is where each Representative actually casts a vote, this is called a roll call vote, while the second is that a Representative puts forth a motion to suspend the rules and move forward, if no one objects to this then it is understood that everyone is in support of the bill and the bill is regarded as passing via a voice vote/passing without objection (technically a bill passing via a voice vote and passing without objection are not the same but for our purposes we can regard them as being the same). When a bill passes via a voice vote there is no easily searchable record for which Representatives were actually present for that vote. But since Rep. Hunter has a low absentee rate, he missed 2.1% of votes in the 114th Congress (https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members/duncan_hunter/412283/report-card/2016) it is safe to assume that he was present for the voice votes. When a bill passes via a roll call vote there is an official record of how each Representative voted – Hunter voted yes on all bills that passed with a voice vote (S. 84, H.R. 1362, HR 609) except for HR 39 for which he was absent.