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Filling the Amendment Tree in the Senate – RS22854

“Amendment trees” are charts that illustrate certain principles of precedence that guide the Senate amendment process. When all of the amendments permitted simultaneously by these principles have been offered and are pending, an amen

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House Committee Hearings: The “Minority Witness Rule” – RS22637

When a House committee or subcommittee holds a hearing, the minority party members of the panel have the right to call witnesses of their choosing to testify on at least one day of that hearing. Clause 2(j)(1) of House Rule XI—known as the

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Agricultural Disaster Assistance – RS21212

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) offers several programs to help farmers recover financially from natural disasters, including drought and floods. All the programs have permanent authorization, and only one requires a federal disaster d

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Latin America: Terrorism Issues – RS21049

U.S. attention to terrorism in Latin America intensified in the aftermath of the September 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, with an increase in bilateral and regional antiterrorism cooperation. Compared to other parts of the wo

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Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty: Background and Current Developments – RL33548

A ban on all nuclear tests is the oldest item on the nuclear arms control agenda. Three treaties that entered into force between 1963 and 1990 limit, but do not ban, such tests. In 1996, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Comprehens

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Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding Plans: Background and Issues for Congress – RL32665

The Navy’s proposed FY2016 budget requests funding for the procurement of nine new battle force ships (i.e., ships that count against the Navy’s goal for achieving and maintaining a fleet of 308 ships). The nine ships include two Vir

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Foreign Investment in U.S. Securities – RL32462

Foreign capital inflows play an important role in the U.S. economy by bridging the gap between domestic supplies of and demand for capital. Such inflows peaked in 2007 in nominal terms. In 2008 and 2009, foreign capital inflows dropped sharply a

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Iran, Gulf Security, and U.S. Policy – RL32048

Since the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979, a priority of U.S. policy has been to reduce the perceived threat posed by Iran to a broad range of U.S. interests, including the security of the Persian Gulf region. In 2014, a common adversary emer

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The Federal Excise Tax on Motor Fuels and the Highway Trust Fund: Current Law and Legislative History – RL30304

The federal government levies an excise tax on various motor fuels. Under current law, the tax rate is 18.3 cents per gallon on gasoline and 24.3 cents per gallon on diesel fuel. A 0.1 cents per gallon tax is also levied on top of these fuel tax

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Yucca Mountain: Legal Developments Relating to the Designated Nuclear Waste Repository – R44151

Passed in 1982, the Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA) was an effort to establish an explicit statutory basis for the Department of Energy (DOE) to dispose of the nation’s most highly radioactive nuclear waste. The NWPA requires DOE to remove

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The Office of Surface Mining’s Proposed Stream Protection Rule: An Overview – R44150

On July 16, 2015, the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) of the Department of the Interior announced a Stream Protection Rule that would revise regulations implementing Title V of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamatio

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Indian Water Rights Settlements – R44148

In the second half of the 19th century, the federal government pursued a policy of confining Indian tribes to reservations. These reservations were either a portion of a tribe’s aboriginal land or an area of land taken out of the public do

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Excise Tax on High-Cost Employer-Sponsored Health Coverage: In Brief – R44147

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA; P.L. 111-148, as amended) includes a 40% excise tax on employer-sponsored health coverage. This tax, often called the Cadillac tax, is to be implemented beginning in 2018.  The e

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The Demand for Municipal Bonds: Issues for Congress – R44146

Municipal bonds are debt securities issued by states, cities, counties, and other government-created agencies to finance capital projects, such as highways, airports, sewers, bridges, schools, hospitals, and other public goods for residents. The

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EPA’s Clean Power Plan: Highlights of the Final Rule – R44145

On August 3, 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a prepublication version of the final rule known as the Clean Power Plan (CPP). The CPP final rule requires states to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions or emission rates&m

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H.R. 6: The 21st Century Cures Act – R44071

On July 10, 2015, the House passed H.R. 6, the 21st Century Cures Act, on a vote of 344 to 77. Eight amendments were offered; five were approved by voice vote, two failed by recorded vote, and one was withdrawn. The House Energy and Commerce Com

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Revision of the Nutrition Facts Label: Proposed Rules – R43733

High rates of obesity and chronic diseases have prompted federal, state, and local initiatives such as exercise promotion, nutrition education, and food labeling. Nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight or obese, suggesting that consumer

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The Debt Limit Since 2011 – R43389

The Constitution grants Congress the power to borrow money on the credit of the United States—one part of its power of the purse—and thus mandates that Congress exercise control over federal debt. Control of debt policy has at times

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Overview and Issues for Implementation of the Federal Cloud Computing Initiative: Implications for Federal Information Technology Reform Management – R42887

Cloud computing is a new name for an old concept: the delivery of computing services from a remote location, analogous to the way electricity, water, and other utilities are provided to most customers. Cloud computing services are delivered thro

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Maritime Territorial and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) Disputes Involving China: Issues for Congress – R42784

China’s actions for asserting and defending its maritime territorial and exclusive economic zone (EEZ) claims in the East China (ECS) and South China Sea (SCS), particularly since late 2013, have heightened concerns among observers that Ch

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The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA): Background, Legislation, and Policy Issues – R41933

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA; 5 U.S.C. §552) allows any person—individual or corporate, citizen or not—to request and obtain existing, identifiable, and unpublished agency records on any topic. Pursuant to FOIA, the publ

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Small Business Administration HUBZone Program – R41268

The Small Business Administration (SBA) administers several programs to support small businesses, including the Historically Underutilized Business Zone Empowerment Contracting (HUBZone) program. The HUBZone program is a small business federal c

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California Drought: Hydrological and Regulatory Water Supply Issues – R40979

California is in its fourth year of drought. As of late July 2015, 47% of California was experiencing exceptional drought—the most severe U.S. federal drought classification—and approximately 71% of the state was experiencin

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Unfunded Mandates Reform Act: History, Impact, and Issues – R40957

The Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 (UMRA) culminated years of effort by state and local government officials and business interests to control, if not eliminate, the imposition of unfunded intergovernmental and private-sector federal manda

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Federalism Issues in Surface Transportation Policy: A Historical Perspective – R40431

P.L. 112-141, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), reauthorized federal highway and mass transit programs through the end of FY2014 (27 months), and authorized to be appropriated $105.2 billion for these programs in FY

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House Committee Hearings: Witness Testimony – 98-338

Witnesses before House committees must generally file advance copies of their written testimony with the committee and then limit their oral testimony to brief summaries (Rule XI, clause 2(g)(5)). A question-and-answer period usually follows a w

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Types of Committee Hearings – 98-317

Congressional committee hearings may be broadly classified into four types: legislative, oversight, investigative, and confirmation. Hearings may be held on Capitol Hill or elsewhere (e.g., a committee member&

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Political Transition in Tunisia – RS21666

Tunisia has taken key steps toward democracy since the “Jasmine Revolution” in 2011, and has so far avoided the violent chaos and/or authoritarian resurrection seen in other “Arab Spring” countries. Tunisians adopted a ne

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Mountaintop Removal Mining: Background on Current Controversies – RS21421

Mountaintop removal mining involves removing the top of a mountain in order to recover the coal seams contained there. This practice occurs in six Appalachian states (Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, and Ohio). It crea

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Agricultural Disaster Assistance – RS21212

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) offers several programs to help farmers recover financially from natural disasters, including drought and floods. All the programs have permanent authorization, and only one requires a federal disaster d

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House Standing Committee Chairs and Ranking Minority Members: Rules Governing Selection Procedures – RS21165

House rules, Republican Conference rules, and Democratic Caucus rules each detail aspects of the procedures followed in selecting standing committee chairs and ranking minority Members. This report summarizes those procedures and lists membershi

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Indian Elementary-Secondary Education: Programs, Background, and Issues – RL34205

The federal government provides elementary and secondary education and educational assistance to Indian children, either directly through federally funded schools or indirectly through educational assistance to public schools. Direct education i

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Generalized System of Preferences: Overview and Issues for Congress – RL33663

The U.S. Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program provides non-reciprocal, duty-free tariff treatment to certain products imported from designated beneficiary developing countries (BDCs). The United States, the European Union, and other d

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Brazil: Background and U.S. Relations – RL33456

The United States traditionally has enjoyed robust economic and political relations with Brazil, which is the seventh-largest economy in the world and is recognized by the Obama Administration as a “major global player” and an &ldquo

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U.S.-China Nuclear Cooperation Agreement – RL33192

Negotiated by the Reagan Administration nearly 30 years ago, the current U.S. peaceful nuclear cooperation agreement with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is set to expire on December 30, 2015. President Obama submitted a new 30-year U

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Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding Plans: Background and Issues for Congress – RL32665

The Navy’s proposed FY2016 budget requests funding for the procurement of nine new battle force ships (i.e., ships that count against the Navy’s goal for achieving and maintaining a fleet of 308 ships). The nine ships include two Vir

view full post » […]

Foreign Investment in U.S. Securities – RL32462

Foreign capital inflows play an important role in the U.S. economy by bridging the gap between domestic supplies of and demand for capital. Such inflows peaked in 2007 in nominal terms. In 2008 and 2009, foreign capital inflows dropped sharply a

view full post » […]

Iran, Gulf Security, and U.S. Policy – RL32048

Since the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979, a priority of U.S. policy has been to reduce the perceived threat posed by Iran to a broad range of U.S. interests, including the security of the Persian Gulf region. In 2014, a common adversary emer

view full post » […]

The Debt Limit: History and Recent Increases – RL31967

Congress has always restricted federal debt. The Second Liberty Bond Act of 1917 included an aggregate limit on federal debt as well as limits on specific debt issues. Through the 1920s and 1930s, Congress altered the form of those restrictions

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Afghanistan: Post-Taliban Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy – RL30588

At the end of 2014, the United States and partner countries completed a transition to a smaller mission consisting primarily of training and advising the Afghanistan National Security Forces (ANSF). The number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, whic

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The Federal Excise Tax on Motor Fuels and the Highway Trust Fund: Current Law and Legislative History – RL30304

The federal government levies an excise tax on various motor fuels. Under current law, the tax rate is 18.3 cents per gallon on gasoline and 24.3 cents per gallon on diesel fuel. A 0.1 cents per gallon tax is also levied on top of these fuel tax

view full post » […]

Irrigation in U.S. Agriculture: On-Farm Technologies and Best Management Practices – R44158

Recent threats to water availability as a result of moderate to exceptional drought in several states have raised questions about agricultural water use and efficiencies across the United States. An understanding of common irrigation technologie

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The Intelligence Community and Its Use of Contractors: Congressional Oversight Issues – R44157

Contractors have been and are an integral part of the intelligence community’s (IC’s) total workforce (which also includes federal employees and military personnel). Yet questions have been raised regarding how they are used, and the

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U.S. Peanut Program and Issues – R44156

The federal peanut program provides income support for peanut producers and landowners through market-triggered government payments. The payments supplement producer returns from the market when the national peanut price or crop revenue drops be

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The Greek Debt Crisis: Overview and Implications for the United States – R44155

Crisis Overview 

Greece’s economy has been in crisis since 2009. While concerns have focused on the sustainability of the government’s debt, the crisis has also resulted in a general collapse of the Gree

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Lobbying Congress with Appropriated Funds: Restrictions on Federal Agencies and Officials – R44154

Congress, under its authority to direct and control the use and expenditure of the funds that it appropriates from the U.S. Treasury, has enacted several specific and express limitations on the expenditure of federal appropriations. Some of thes

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Trade Adjustment Assistance for Workers and the TAA Reauthorization Act of 2015 – R44153

Trade Adjustment Assistance for Workers (TAA) provides federal assistance to workers who have involuntarily lost their jobs due to foreign competition. It was last reauthorized by the Trade Adjustment Assistance Reauthorization Act of 2015 (TAAR

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Labor Day Speech Resources: Fact Sheet – R44152

Labor Day is a federal holiday celebrating the achievements of American workers. Labor Day also symbolically marks the end of summer and the beginning of the school year.

This guide is designed to assist congressional offices with work-

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Puerto Rico ‘s Current Fiscal Challenges: In Brief – R44095

The government of Puerto Rico faces multiple fiscal challenges in coming weeks and months. Concerns regarding the sustainability of Puerto Rico’s public finances have intensified over the past year, despite several measures taken by the is

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Veterans’ Benefits: Pension Benefit Programs – RS22804

This report discusses selected veteran pension programs administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA): 

• The Improved Disability Pension makes payments to certain low-income veterans. In

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