Averting a Government Shutdown, and Reinforcing Air Travel Infrastructure, Weather Alert Systems and National Defense Initiatives

Making further continuing appropriations for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2024, and for other purposes (HR 2872) – Passed by both branches and signed by the president on Jan. 18, this is the third temporary resolution designed to avert a government shutdown until Congress can agree on appropriations for fiscal year 2024. The bill extends the government funding deadline to March 1 for four appropriations bills and another eight until March 8.

Airport and Airway Extension Act of 2023, Part II (HR 6503) – This bipartisan bill was introduced on Nov. 29, 2023, by Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO). It extends certain Federal Aviation and Administration (FAA) programs and activities through March 8, namely the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) test site program and the remote detection and identification pilot program, weather reporting programs, the Remote Tower Pilot Program, and the Essential Air Service Program. The bill also extends authorization for the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) that provides grants for planning, development, and noise compatibility projects at certain public-use airports and extends the FAA’s authority to collect taxes on aviation fuel and airline tickets to support the Airport and Airway Trust Fund (AATF). The bill passed in the House on Dec. 11, in the Senate on Dec. 19, and was signed into law by President Biden on Dec. 26.

National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2024 (HR 2670) – This bill incorporates provisions from a wide range of legislation introduced throughout 2023. It authorizes fiscal year 2024 appropriations and policies for: the Department of Defense (DOD); military construction; national security programs for the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Maritime Administration; the Defense Nuclear Safety Board; and the Naval Petroleum Reserves. Note that this bill does not provide appropriations but merely authorizes funding from an approved budget. The Act was introduced by Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL) on April 18, 2023. It passed in the House on July 14 and the Senate on July 27. A conference report of the final text was produced and approved by both houses in December, and the Act was signed into law on Dec. 22, 2023.

Testing, Rapid Analysis and Narcotic Quality (TRANQ) Research Act of 2023 (HR 1734) – This bipartisan act was introduced on March 23, 2023, by Rep. Mike Collins (R-GA). It initially passed in the House on May 11, passed in the Senate with changes on June 22, was finalized in the House on Dec. 4, and enacted on Dec. 11. The bill directs the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to support research and other activities related to psychoactive substances such as fentanyl and a veterinary tranquilizer called Xylazine. Colloquially referred to as the zombie drug, this substance has proliferated in communities throughout the country and places law enforcement officers at great personal risk during confiscation.

A bill to amend the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to extend the Administrative Fine Program for certain reporting violations (S 2747) – This bill extends authorization to the Federal Election Commission Administration Fine Program to enforce penalties for late and/or non-filed campaign finance disclosure reports. The legislation was introduced by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) on Sept. 7, 2023, and passed in the Senate on the same day. It passed in the House on Dec. 11 and was signed into law on Dec. 19, 2023.

NWR Modernization Act of 2023 (S 1416) – This bipartisan bill instructs the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to update the NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards (NWR) network of radio stations that broadcast 24-7 weather information, including weather warnings, watches, and forecasts. It has become imperative to beef up the coverage and reliability of radio stations – particularly in rural and underserved communities – via repairs, software upgrades, additional equipment, and alternative means of transmissions, as well as other potential improvements. The Act was introduced on May 23, 2023, by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D- WA). It passed in the Senate on Dec.18 and currently lies in the House.

National Weather Service Communications Improvement Act (S 1414) – This bill is designed to update the current in-house instant messaging service (NWSChat) that has been in use since 2008 by NWS forecasters. In the wake of increased severe weather events, wildfires, and climate-related emergencies across the country, it is necessary to use more reliable, updated state-of-the-art communications and real-time alerts in order for local communities to keep families, homes, and businesses safe and secure. This Act would require the NWS to adopt a new instant messaging service by October 2027. The bill, also introduced by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) on May 3, 2023, passed in the Senate on Dec. 18, 2023. Note that there is a similar bill in the Senate sponsored by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) as well as a bipartisan version in the House.

Relaxing Small Business Accountability and Supporting Veteran Homelessness and Substance Abuse Disorders

SJ Res 32, HR 3581, HR 3848, HR 4531A joint resolution providing for Congressional disapproval under Chapter 8 of Title 5, United States Code, of the rule submitted by the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection relating to Small Business Lending Under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (SJ Res 32) – This resolution was introduced on June 13 by Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA). It nullifies a rule issued by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) that requires financial institutions to collect and report credit application data for small businesses to the CFPB. The bill passed in the House and the Senate on Dec. 1, but President Biden has threatened to veto the resolution because he believes it would reduce transparency and accountability in small business lending.

Caregiver Outreach and Program Enhancement (COPE) Act (HR 3581) – This bill supports various Veterans Administration initiatives: 1. Authorizes funding for the implementation, coordination, and enhancement of mental health counseling and treatment for participants (family caregivers of veterans) in the VA family caregiver program; 2. Authorizes the VA to contribute to local authorities to mitigate flooding risks on properties adjacent to VA medical facilities; 3. Requires an annual survey of police chiefs, facility emergency management leaders, facility directors, etc., for data regarding VA facility security; 4. Extends certain VA home loan fee rates through March 12, 2032. The legislation was introduced by Rep. Jennifer Kiggans (R-VA) on May 22. It passed in the House on Dec. 4 and is now in the Senate for review.

Housing our Military Veterans Effectively Act of 2023 (HR 3848) – This Act is designed to address issues related to homeless veterans. It increases the maximum per diem payments to authorized entities that provide transitional housing and services to homeless veterans. It also authorizes a maximum of 200 percent of the rate for veterans who live in rural areas, areas with high veteran suicide rates, and high rates of veteran homelessness. Furthermore, the bill authorizes the VA, through fiscal year 2024, to use certain funds to provide additional assistance to homeless veterans participating in the HUD-VA Supportive Housing program and to manage the use of VA land for homeless veterans to live and sleep. The legislation was introduced on June 6 by Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R-OR) and passed in the House on Dec. 5. Its fate currently rests with the Senate.

Support for Patients and Communities Reauthorization Act (HR 4531) – This bipartisan legislation reauthorizes (through the fiscal year 2028) grants, programs, and activities that address substance use. The provisions address data collection, education, and surveillance activities; support for substance use disorder (SUD) prevention, treatment, recovery, and trauma experienced by families of SUD patients; and student loan repayment and other resources for the SUD workforce. The legislation also modifies certain drug schedules of controlled substances and permanently requires that Medicaid cover medication-assisted treatment for eligible SUD patients. This bill was introduced by Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY) on July 11 and is co-sponsored by 37 Republicans and 27 Democrats. It passed in the House on Dec. 12 and is currently under consideration in the Senate.

Expanding Benefits for Veterans and Extending Government Funding Until Jan. 19, 2024

A bill to amend Title 38, United States Code, to extend and modify certain authorities and requirements relating to the Department of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes. (S 2795) – This bill was introduced on Sept. 13 by Sen. Don Tester (D-MT). This act extends various Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) programs and benefits, including extending the use of contract healthcare professions for disability exams from three to five years; extending authorization for VA emergency preparedness for public health emergencies through fiscal year 2028; and extending certain fee rates under the VA’s home loan program through Nov. 15, 2031. The bill passed in the Senate on Sept. 13, the House on Sept. 26, and was signed into law by the President on Oct. 6.

Wounded Warrior Access Act (HR 1226) – This bill requires the VA to develop and maintain a secure online website that will allow claimants to request records related to their VA claims and benefits, as well as a process for reporting violations. The legislation was introduced by Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-CA) on Feb. 28. It passed in the House on March 7, the Senate on Nov. 2 and was signed into law on Nov. 13.

Korean American Valor Act (HR 366) – This act amends U.S. Code Title 38 to treat certain members of the armed forces of the Republic of Korea, who served in Vietnam under the Armed Forces of the United States, as veterans for purposes of qualifying for healthcare by the VA. The legislation was introduced on Jan. 13by Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA), and was passed in the House on May 22 and in the Senate on Oct. 19. The bill was enacted by President Biden on Nov. 13.

A bill to amend Title 38, United States Code, to strengthen benefits for children of Vietnam veterans born with spina bifida, and for other purposes. (S 12) – Introduced by Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN) on Jan. 26, this bill requires the VA to provide healthcare, job training and monetary benefits to children of Vietnam veterans who were born with spina bifida – for the duration of the child’s life. The bill also requires the VA to establish an advisory council responsible for the care, coordination and ongoing outreach to assist with any care changes over time. The bill passed in the Senate on July 13, the House on Sept. 19, and was signed into law on Oct. 6.

Further Continuing Appropriations and Other Extensions Act, 2024 (HR 6363) – This continuing resolution (CR) was introduced by Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX) on Nov. 13. It is part of a two-step process to continue funding most government programs and activities at fiscal year 2023 levels for the current fiscal year (2024). The CR expires on Jan. 19, 2024, by which time budget legislation will need to be passed in order to avoid a government shutdown. This CR passed in the House on Nov. 14, the Senate on Nov. 15, and was signed by the President on Nov. 16.

Banning Weapons Training in Public Schools, Funding Assistance for Ukraine, and Various Appropriations Bills for Fiscal Year 2024

Banning Weapons Training in Public Schools, Funding Assistance for Ukraine, and Various Appropriations Bills for Fiscal Year 2024Protecting Hunting Heritage and Education Act (HR 5110) – This bill was introduced in the House on Aug. 1 by Rep. Mark E. Green (R-TN). The purpose of this bill is to ban federal funds from being used for weapons training in public schools, except in the case of training students in archery, hunting, and other school sports that involve shooting guns. The bill passed in the House on Sept. 26, the Senate on Sept. 27, and was signed into law by the president on Oct. 6.

Continuing Appropriations Act, 2024 and Other Extensions Act (HR 5860) – This last-minute continuing resolution (CR) authorizes fiscal year 2024 appropriations to federal agencies through Nov. 17, as well as emergency funding for disaster relief. With the impending deadline of Oct. 1, this stopgap bill was passed in the House and Senate and signed by the president on Sept. 30. A full authorization bill (or another extension) must be passed by the November deadline in order to prevent a government shutdown.

Ukraine Security Assistance and Oversight Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2024 (HR 6592) – This act provides supplemental appropriations to the Department of Defense (DOD) for assistance to Ukraine; it also authorizes an Office of the Special Inspector General for Ukraine Assistance. This funding is designed to aid and equip military and national security forces to help fight the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It further replenishes the U.S. military inventory with weapons or defense systems that have already been provided to Ukraine. The Special Inspector General for Ukraine Assistance will conduct audits to prevent and detect waste, fraud, and abuse of the bill’s funding. The legislation was introduced by Rep. Thomas Kean (R-NJ) on Sept. 26 and was passed in the House on Sept. 28. It is presently under review in the Senate.

Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2024 (HR 4367) – Introduced by Rep. David Joyce (R-OH) on June 27, this is an appropriations bill for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). This funding is designated for intelligence, situational awareness, and oversight, security, enforcement, and investigations related to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Transportation Security Administration, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the U.S. Secret Service. While the bill passed in the House on Sept. 28 and is currently under consideration in the Senate, President Biden has indicated he would veto the bill because it rescinds a previously agreed-upon budget negotiated by the Speaker of the House last May.

Expanding Access to Capital for Rural Job Creators Act (S 294) – This bill would require the Securities and Exchange Commission to report on issues encountered by rural-area small businesses. Moreover, it would amend the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 to extend additional capital for small businesses in rural areas. The legislation was introduced by Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) on Feb. 7 and passed in the Senate on Sept. 7. It is currently in the House.

National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2024 (S 226) – This annual appropriations bill passed in the Senate on July 27. It authorizes fiscal year 2024 appropriations for the Department of Defense (DOD), the national security programs of the Department of Energy (DOE), military construction, acquisition or modification of various military items (e.g., aircraft, ships, combat vehicles, missiles, ammunition), service member compensation and healthcare benefits, as well as other purposes related to defending the U.S. Introduced on July 11 by Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), the bill currently resides in the House.