New to the art form? This Wall Street Journal article will get you orientated. Also, for more information on how some of these titles mislead lawmakers and the citizenry, find some academic commentary from Brian Christopher Jones here: https://works.bepress.com/brian_jones/.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Opposite of the USA PATRIOT Act: the USA FREEDOM Act

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D., VT) and Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R., WI) have introduced the USA FREEDOM (Uniting and Strengthening America by Fulfilling Rights and Ending Eavesdropping, Dragnet-collection, and On-line Monitoring) Act, which according to their press release, appears to be a direct response to how the USA PATRIOT Act was interpreted by the courts. The release notes that
Following 9/11, the USA PATRIOT Act passed the judiciary committees with overwhelming bipartisan support. The bill has helped keep Americans safe by ensuring information is shared among those responsible for defending our country and by enhancing the tools the intelligence community needs to identify and track terrorists,” Sensenbrenner said. “But somewhere along the way, the balance between security and privacy was lost. It’s now time for the judiciary committees to again come together in a bipartisan fashion to ensure the law is properly interpreted, past abuses are not repeated and American liberties are protected. Washington must regain Americans’ trust in their government. The USA FREEDOM Act is an essential first step. I would like to thank Congressmen Conyers and Amash, Congresswoman Lofgren, Chairman Issa and others for working with us to draft this important legislation and encourage all my colleagues to support it.” 
The USA FREEDOM Act would end the dragnet collection of Americans’ phone records under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act and ensure that other authorities cannot be used to justify similar dragnet collection. The bill also provides more safeguards for warrantless surveillance under the FISA Amendments Act.

The bill includes other significant privacy and oversight provisions, provides for the creation of a Special Advocate to focus on the protection of privacy rights and civil liberties before the FISA Court, and requires more detailed public reporting about the numbers and types of FISA orders that are issued.

The bill currently has 16 co-sponsors in the Senate, and over 70 co-sponsors in the House, both of which consist of Republicans and Democrats. The authors penned an op-ed in Politico, and a further outline of the legislation can be found here

Monday, October 28, 2013

The American RIP Act

In 2000, the Westminster Parliament passed the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (RIP) Act (also known as RIPA). Now, with Halloween looming, Congress is putting their own version of the RIP Act forward, the Retail Investor Protection Act, sponsored by Rep. Ann Wagner (R, MO). The major difficulty, however, is that the White House opposes the measure, noting that the measure would "derail important rulemakings underway at the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Department of Labor that are critical to protecting Americans’ hard-earned savings and preserving their retirement security." 

The complete release is located below. 
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EXECUTIVE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT
OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20503
                                                                                      October 28, 2013
                                                                                      (House Rules)
STATEMENT OF ADMINISTRATION POLICY
H.R. 2374 – Retail Investor Protection Act
(Rep. Wagner, R-MO, and Rep. Murphy, D-FL)

The Administration strongly opposes passage of H.R. 2374 because it would derail important rulemakings underway at the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Department of Labor that are critical to protecting Americans’ hard-earned savings and preserving their retirement security.  

H.R. 2374 prohibits Labor from issuing a rule to protect investors until the SEC engages in and completes further study of the effect of a rulemaking on retail investors.  The bill ignores the fact that significant work has already been conducted in both agencies and that the agencies have included and continue to include the public, industry, and numerous stakeholders in their rulemaking processes.  Moreover, the two agencies are already working closely to avoid conflicting requirements for the regulated community, and this legislation would hamper effective coordination between the two agencies.  The bill would hinder efforts to protect consumers from conflicts of interest among brokers, dealers, financial advisors, and others whose incentives may be misaligned with investors, potentially leading to deceptive and abusive practices.  

The Administration is committed to ensuring that American workers and retirees are able to receive advice about how to invest their money in safe, secure, and transparent financial products that is free from harmful conflicts of interest.  These ongoing rulemakings are designed to protect trillions of dollars in retirement savings of millions of workers and retirees by ensuring that paid advisors and other entities do not place their own financial interests over those of their customers.  This legislation would place an unnecessary obstacle in the way of these efforts to prevent such harmful conflicts of interest, which hurt businesses, consumers, and retirees and their families.

If the President were presented with H.R. 2374, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

DREG(s) of a Working Group

Today the Obama Administration came out against two House measures, the Deficit Reduction and Economic Growth (DREG) Working Group Act of 2013 (H.R. 3273) and the Federal Worker Pay Fairness Act (H.J.Res. 89). The official statement notes that: 
The Administration strongly opposes House joint passage of H.J. Res. 89 and H.R. 3273, which does nothing to solve the immediate, pressing obligations the Congress has to open the Government and pay its bills. The House should allow a straight up or down vote on Senate-passed H.J. Res. 59 to reopen the Government, bring all the Nation's dedicated civil servants back to work, and provide the services middle class Americans deserve. In addition, the House should pass a clean debt ceiling bill without drama or delay so that the United States can continue to pay its bills and fulfill the Nation's obligations. The President has been clear that he is open to discussing a broad range of measures to support the Nation's economy, create jobs and further reduce the deficit, once the Congress meets its responsibility to open the Government and pay its bills.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

More Shutdown Proposals

H.J. Res. 75: Nutrition Assistance for Low-Income Women and Children Act

H.J. Res. 76: Nuclear Weapon Security & Non-Proliferation Act

H.J. Res. 77: Food and Drug Safety Act

H.J. Res. 78: Preserving Our Intelligence Capabilities Act

H.J. Res. 79: Border Safety & Security Act

H.J. Res 80: American Indian and Alaska Native, Health, Education, and Safety Act

H.J. Res. 82: National Weather Monitoring Act

H.J. Res. 83: Impact Aid for Local Schools Act

H.J. Res. 84: Head Start for Low-Income Children Act

H.J. Res 85: National Emergency and Disaster Recovery Act

H.R. 3223: Federal Employee Retroactive Pay Fairness Act

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Still Gettin' Paid

In the face of a government shutdown on Monday President Barack Obama signed H.R. 3210, the Pay Our Military Act, which guarantees that military members will remain paid throughout the government shutdown. According to the White House press release, the law:
"provides continuing appropriations for pay and allowances during any period for which interim or full-year appropriations for FY 2014 are not in effect as follows: for members of the Armed Forces, including Reserve Component personnel who perform active service during such period, and for civilian personnel and contractors of the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security (in the case of the Coast Guard) whom the respective Secretaries determine are providing support to members of the Armed Forces."