Congress

  • Terrorism insuranceSenate expects to extend terrorism insurance after House passes bill

    After the House passed the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2014 (TRIPRA) last week, supporters of the bill expect the Senate to approve it, although they are unsure when that will occur. The current version of the program is expected to expire by 31 December unless Congress renews the legislation or places a temporary extension.The House version would extend TRIPRA for six years, increase the threshold for government reimbursement from $100 million to $200 million, and increase companies’ co-payments to 20 percent from 15 percent.

  • Chemical facility safetyHouse approves 4-year extension of chemical facility safety legislation

    On 11 December the House approved a 4-year reauthorization of DHS’s Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standardsprogram (CFATS), meant to protect U.S. chemical facilities from terrorist attacks. President Barack Obama is expected to sign the bill(H.R. 4007). Implementing the CFATS program will cost roughly $349 million over fiscal years 2015 to 2019. The CFATS, authorized in Section 550 of the 2007 DHS Appropriations Act, requires industrial facilities with certain levels of use or storage of chemicals to submit information about their chemical holdings to DHS, assess their vulnerabilities, and submit plans to address those vulnerabilities and secure their chemical holdings.

  • Terrorism insuranceImpasse in Congress over terrorism insurance (TRIA) renewal

    The Terrorism Risk Insurance Act(TRIA) is expected to expire by 31 December unless Congress renews the legislation or places a temporary extension. The legislation, initially established in November 2002 as a federal backstop to protect insurers in the event an act of terrorism results in losses above $100 million, has been extended and reauthorized. The insurance industry supports the reauthorization approved by the Senate, and opposes a short-term extension. Some insurance companies have noted on their contracts that policyholders could lose terrorism coverage if TRIA is not renewed.

  • SurveillanceGOP senators block NSA surveillance reform bill

    The USA Freedom Act, a bill introduced last year aiming to curtail some of the NSA’s data collection programs, especially those focusing on U.S. phone data, failed last night to reach the 60-vote threshold required to cut off debate and move to a vote. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), the Republican leader, and other leading GOP senators worked hard to defeat the bill. Nearly a year-and-a-half after the Edward Snowden’s revelations, the act was considered the most politically viable effort in four decades to place curbs on NSA activities. Civil libertarians and technology companies supported the bill, as did the White House and the intelligence community – although the latter two did so more out of fear that a failure of the bill would jeopardize the extension of Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which expires next June.

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  • EbolaCongress ready to allocate additional funds to agencies working on Ebola

    Some members of Congress are preparing to offer additional funding to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, and other federal agencies, but according to White House press secretary Josh Earnest, the Obama administration has not decided how much additional funding it will request from Congress to combat the epidemic.

  • Terrorism insuranceUncertainty over terrorism insurance act’s renewal upsets industry

    The Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA) is set to expire at the end of this year unless Congress renews the program, which will likely include reforms required by House Republicans. Congress passed TRIA in 2002 after the 9/11 attacks to encourage insurance companies to continue terrorism coverage as part of commercial policies after many feared that doing so would lead to greater financial loss should another terror attack occur.

  • EarthquakesNapa earthquake may persuade lawmakers to fund earthquake warning system

    Last Sunday’s Napa earthquake may push Congress to increase funding for an earthquake warning system. Building out the West Coast earthquake warning system, called ShakeAlert, would cost $120 million over five years, and an additional $16 million a year to operate. Today, ShakeAlert operates in a testing phase, and sensors notify researchers and volunteer participants when an earthquake has been detected.

  • WildfiresCongress mulls declaring wildfires as natural disasters like earthquakes and hurricanes

    Climate change has contributed to the increasing number of wildfires in the American West as temperatures get hotter and forests get drier. Congress is now considering treating wildfires like earthquakes and hurricanes, declaring the occurrences as natural disasters. That move would provide additional emergency funding to fight wildfires as they occur, so federal and state agencies would no longer have to transfer funds from fire-prevention programs.

  • ImmigrationU.S. mulls ways to handle complex child immigration issue

    The influx of unaccompanied children crossing into the United States has reached crisis proportions, with 90,000 now in the United States. The children are escaping violence and deprivation in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, but a George W. Bush-era law prevents their rapid repatriation. Leading Republicans want to change the law, but many Democrats condition such a change on folding it into a comprehensive immigration reform.

  • ImmigrationWave of illegal children immigrants shifts debate on use of executive powers

    After several immigration bills stalled in Congress, President Barack Obama, in 2012 and 2013, issued a series of executive orders to limit the number of deportations of illegal immigrants. Many who advocated a tougher stance on immigration have charged Obama with failure to consult with Congress. The Obama administration is now trying to find a way to deport Central American illegal immigrants, many of them unaccompanied children, without running afoul of a George W. Bush 2008 law which makes such deportation difficult – and some of his immigration criticswant him to take executive action on the issue, a shift from their usual criticism that he has abused his executive powers.

  • ContractsDHS urged to investigate use of DHS grants for Motorola emergency comm. devices

    Three senior House Democrats have requested DHS’s Office of Inspector Generalto investigate allegations claiming Motorola’s contracting tactics have led state and local governments unnecessarily to spend millions of dollars on the company’s proprietary devices, including its two-way emergency radio systems.

  • Terror insuranceAs TRIA is set to expire in December, reauthorization by Congress is not a sure thing

    After the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. insurance industry sustained an estimated $32.5 billion in total losses. In 2002, to encourage insurance companies to continue covering terrorism as part of commercial policies after many dropped the coverage for fear of more financial loss should another terror attack occur, Congress passed the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act(TRIA).There has yet to be a TRIA payout due to the absence of a large-scale terrorist attack since the law went into effect. With TRIA expected to expire on 17 December 2014, businesses and some members of Congress are advocating the extension of the legislation, but two pending proposals in Congress have yet to gather the needed support to reauthorize TRIA.

  • CongressFive House Homeland Security top policy staffers fired

    Brendan Shields, the new staff director for House Homeland Security Committeechairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas), fired five top policy staffers on 20 June, including McCaul’s top advisers on border security and counterterrorism.Observers note that without his own cadre of policy experts, McCaul may have less influence on legislation, especially if subcommittee heads with opposing views become more involved in drafting policies.

  • ImmigrationHigh-tech industry-backed immigration reform advocacy group mulls strategy

    FWD.us, an immigration advocacy group launched by Facebookfounder Mark Zuckerberg, has spent millions of dollars on advertising and events to persuade members of Congress to revamp the country’s immigration policy, but despite having the capital, connections, and star power, the tech industry-based group is now forced to reorganize its strategies in the midst of a polarizing immigration debate.

  • Border securityEfforts to discourage unaccompanied minors from entering U.S. have so far failed

    The administration’s efforts to discourage children from Central America and Mexico from illegally entering the United States continue to gain little traction, and the number of migrants under eighteen years old illegally crossing the U.S-Mexico border continues to increase. Officials blame the surge in young migrants on the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, a 2008 law which made it difficult to repatriate unaccompanied minors without letting then appear before an immigration judge. The administration has asked Congress to change the 2008 law to give DHS greater discretion in repatriating Central American children more quickly, but some Senate Democrats have vowed to block narrow changes to immigration laws.