United States: Fox On The Hill - September 6, 2016

Budget

The current funding for the federal government is set to expire on September 30. As Congress reconvenes this week, funding the government will be at the center of the debate. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has said that the Republican Conference will meet to discuss a continuing resolution. On the other side of the aisle, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has warned Republicans that Democrats, including President Obama, will not support a bill that funds the federal government into next year, and will support a bill only if it funds the government through December.

Cybersecurity

Ahead of the Group of Twenty summit this week, six Democratic senators sent a letter to President Obama requesting and urging the President to make it a priority to have the G20 commit to a “coordinated strategy to combat cyber-crime at critical financial institutions.” The letter reflects the growing concern among members of Congress regarding the hack into Bangladesh’s central bank in February, in which $81 million was stolen from a Bangladesh bank account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Energy

As the G20 summit gets under way, President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping formally committed their countries to the Paris climate change agreement. White House Senior Adviser Brian Deese said the President was legally able to ratify the agreement without the approval of a two-thirds votes of the Senate because the pact negotiated by 195 countries is an “executive agreement.” Republican lawmakers disagree and say the accord requires a vote by the Senate and that Congress is not bound to an agreement that is ratified by executive action. For the Paris accord to take effect it must be signed and ratified by 55 of the nationals responsible for at least 55 percent of the global emissions. To date, 23 nationals emitting about 1 percent of greenhouse gases have ratified the agreement.

Financial Services

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) is urging financial regulators to release more information about the impact of the Volcker Rule, a provision of the Dodd-Frank Act that prohibits proprietary trading by U.S. banks. As the ranking member of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Capital Markets and Government Sponsored Enterprises, Maloney wrote in a letter addressed to the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors and the Securities and Exchange Commission, among others, that the data “can provide important information not only about the efficacy of the Volcker rule, but also about the general trading activities of U.S. banks, and the degree to which these trading activities have changed over the past two years.” House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) introduced legislation in June that would repeal Dodd-Frank, and in turn repeal the Volcker rule.

Foreign Affairs and National Security

A bipartisan group of 64 Congress members sent a letter to President Obama urging him to postpone the sale of $1.15 billion worth of tanks and armored recovery vehicles to Saudi Arabia. The group cited human rights concerns over Saudi Arabia’s involvement in Yemen’s civil war. The letter was organized by Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA), and co-led by Reps. Ted Yoho (R-FL), John Conyers (D-MI) and Mick Mulvaney (R-SC). The letter also states that notification to Congress was made during the August recess and therefore could be interpreted to violate the 30-day review period Congress is entitled to when considering arms deals.

The Chairs of the Senate and House Armed Services committees praised the launch of a new Rapid Capabilities Office by the Army. The new office would fast-track select acquisition programs for electronic warfare, cyber, weapons platform survivability and navigation. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) cited the move as a step forward in the acquisition process and said it “will expedite the fielding of critical capabilities that will enhance our soldiers' ability to meet current and future threats.”

Health Care

Last week, Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton released her plan for mental health reform. The proposed plan — which has some similarities to legislation currently moving through Congress with bipartisan support — would increase funding for community mental health centers, invest in more brain and behavioral research and create a nationwide initiative for suicide prevention. If Clinton is elected, this could prove to be an area where Republicans are willing to work with her.

Tax

Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) disagree about the future of wind energy for the country. Trump is a long opponent of wind farms, while Grassley has been a long supporter of wind energy. Grassley, who authored the original wind energy tax credit in 1992, told reporters that if Trump were elected and wanted to get rid of the wind energy tax credit, “he’ll have to get a bill through Congress, and he’ll do it over my dead body.”

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