Congress

  • Lawmakers want safer waste storage at nuclear plants

    Lawmakers on Tuesday introduced a set of bills aimed at improving the safety and security of nuclear power plants’ waste in the event of a natural disaster or terrorism. One of the bills would require nuclear power plant operators to accelerate the transfer of nuclear waste stored in spent fuel pools into dry cask storage units. Current Nuclear Regulatory Commission(NRC) regulations allow spent fuel to remain in spent fuel pools until the reactor completes decommissioning, which can take as long as sixty years. Another bill would stop the NRC from issuing exemptions to its emergency response and security requirements for reactors that have been permanently decommissioned.

  • Cybersecurity bill not likely before a crisis proves its necessity

    A recent simulation, with 350 participants from congressional staffs, the cybersecurity sector, and the U.S. military, examined whether or not Congress was capable of passing a comprehensive cybersecurity legislation to protect the country’s critical infrastructure from debilitating cyberattacks. The simulation participants concluded that Congress is not likely to act unless there is a major cyber crisis, and that until such crisis occurs, smaller measures, such as the president’s voluntary cybersecurity framework, are the best that can be hoped for.

  • Industry, Democrats reject GOP-sponsored TRIA-extension draft

    House democrats and members of Property Casualty Insurers, a leading insurance trade group, have rejected a Republican-sponsored draft proposal which would alter some measures of the current Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA). The Property Casualty Insurers did not mince words, calling the GOP plan “unworkable for the marketplace.” The proposal would raise the amount of damage caused by a terrorist attack from the current $100 million to $500 million before government coverage is triggered (the higher threshold would apply to attacks which do not involve nuclear, biological, chemical, or radiological means).

  • Congress urged to renew the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act

    The Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA) is set to expire at the end of 2014 and members of Congress are urging its reinstatement before it is too late. The bill was enacted in 2002 in response to 9/11, and requires private insurers to offer terrorism coverage to individuals, with government assistance should the total payout from an event exceeds $100 million.

  • Chemical plant security measure moves forward in the House

    The House Homeland Security Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee are making progress on legislation meant to extend DHS’s Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standardsprogram, which helps secure commercial chemical plants from terrorist attacks. Several attempts by the House Homeland Security Committee to extend the program have failed due to disagreements with the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which also oversees the matter.

  • House mulls Syria-related sanctions on Iran

    U.S. House legislators are considering new terrorism-related sanctions on Iran, targeting the country’s support for Hezbollah, after ceding to the Obama administration’s request to back off on sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear program. The House Foreign Affairs Committee hopes the move will reflect their independence from the White House and also bring more focus to the Syrian crisis.Lawmakers say the bill would reflect the most effective ways to disrupt Iran’s financial support of Hezbollah.

  • 9/11 terror network in U.S. was never fully dismantled, still a threat

    A joint inquiry co-chaired by a former senator has warned that the American network that supported and trained the 9/11 hijackers was never fully dismantled, and that it remains a threat, pending the release of a secret report from the era. Former Senator. Bob Graham (D-Florida) points out that a 28-page section from the “Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001” was classified under President George W. Bush and remains so under President Barack Obama.

  • Debate intensifies over Obama deportation instruction to ICE

    President Barack Obama’s recent instruction to DHS to find “more humane” ways to deport illegal immigrants has sparked yet another debate between immigration supporters and critics as to what exactly Obama’s directive meant. Supporters of undocumented immigrants hope DHS will cease all deportations deemed unnecessary, while opponents of Obama’s immigration policies urge DHS to carry out the country’s immigration laws as written by Congress.

  • W.Va. spill leads lawmakers, industry to look at reforming toxic substances law

    The government was slow to respond to the 9 January 2014 massive chemical spill in West Virginia because the law governing such response, the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), limits regulatory agencies’ authority to investigate such spills.Under TSCA, the EPA must first prove that a chemical poses an unreasonable risk to health or the environment before it can require the needed testing that would show a potential risk. One observer called this a Catch-22, telling a congressional panel that “This is like requiring a doctor to prove that a patient has cancer before being able to order a biopsy.”

  • Obama uses executive power to changes immigration policy

    President Barack Obama is using executive power to tackle the country’s immigration issues while Congress makes little progress on immigration overhaul. The president issued executive orders prohibiting deportations of individuals who arrived in the United States illegally as children, individuals who care for children, and individuals who have no criminal records. Recently, some relatives of military service members living in the country illegally have been allowed to remain in the country as a way to lessen stress on the military and reward veterans.

  • Acting DHS IG, under investigation, steps down

    Charles K. Edwards, the embattled DHS acting inspector general, yesterday stepped down from his position and took another job in the department. Edwards was under investigation after allegations emerged that he misused his office and softened reports to keep from embarrassing the Obama administration. Late last month, the White House nominated John Roth, a criminal investigator at the Food and Drug Administration, to become the permanent inspector general.

  • Lawmaker wants to know how cyber-safe vehicles are

    Senator Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) has asked twenty automobile manufacturers to submit details of their plans to prevent vehicles from wireless hacking attempts, as well as plans to prevent violations of driver privacy. Markey wants automobile manufacturers to apply computer-industry security processes and technology — including anti-virus software, incident logging, incident-response planning, software vulnerability patching, and third-party penetrating testing — to mass produced vehicles.

  • Lawmakers: Old plastic gun law has not kept pace with technology

    The U.S. House of Representativesvoted last Tuesday to renew the 25-year old Undetectable Firearms Actwhich prohibits firearms that can evade metal detectors and X-ray machines. Law enforcement agencies say that developments in 3D printing make the law insufficient, and lawmakers who proposed amending the Act say that the only way to make such guns detectable is to require that at least one component of the firing mechanism in a plastic gun contain enough metal to be detectable in a magnetometer — and that that component be undetachable. The NRA opposes these requirements, saying that they would infringe on the Second Amendment rights of citizens.

  • U.S. defense industry pushes for immigration reform

    CEO Linda Hudson of BAE Systemsis making a plea for immigration reform as she links the defense industry’s urgent need for skilled engineers to the push for the United States to develop a simpler path to citizenship for skilled and educated immigrants. She also says that “if we’re forced to forgo international talent we damn well ought to be doing something to produce that talent domestically.”

  • Sequestration already eroding U.S. research capabilities

    As congressional budget leaders continue negotiations over Fiscal Year 2014 spending levels, three organizations representing the U.S. leading public and private research universities say that the results of a new survey reveal the pernicious impact of sequestration on scientific research across the country. Budget cuts have already led to fewer grants, cancelled projects, staff reductions, and reduced learning opportunities. “If Congress fails to reverse course and doesn’t begin to value investments in research and higher education, then the innovation deficit this country is facing will worsen as our foreign competitors continue to seize on this nation’s shortfall,” the leader of one of the organizations said.