Human Rights in a Shifting Landscape: Recommendations for Congress

Human Rights in a Shifting Landscape: Recommendations for Congress. Center for Strategic & International Studies. Amy K. Lehr et al. September 9, 2019

Human Rights are part of the American DNA. Congress has long advocated for human rights to play an integral role in U.S. foreign policy, with significant success. However, rising authoritarianism and the gross human rights violations taking place around the world call for immediate and stronger U.S. leadership and Congressional action. To that end, the Human Rights Initiative of CSIS worked with CSIS scholars, who developed recommendations relevant to their expertise that identify how Congress can build on its past human rights leadership to meet today’s challenges. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 59 pages].

Resolving Legislative Differences in Congress: Conference Committees and Amendments Between the Houses

Resolving Legislative Differences in Congress: Conference Committees and Amendments Between the Houses.  Congressional Research Service. Elizabeth Rybicki. Updated May 22, 2019

The Constitution requires that the House and Senate approve the same bill or joint resolution in precisely the same form before it is presented to the President for his signature or veto. To this end, both houses must pass the same measure and then attempt to reach agreement about its provisions. The House and Senate may be able to reach agreement by an exchange of amendments between the houses. Each house has one opportunity to amend the amendments from the other house, so there can be Senate amendments to House amendments to Senate amendments to a House bill. House amendments to Senate bills or amendments are privileged for consideration on the Senate floor; Senate amendments to House bills or amendments generally are not privileged for consideration on the House floor. In practice, the House often disposes of amendments between the houses under the terms of a special rule reported by the Rules Committee. The Senate sometimes disposes of House amendments by unanimous consent, but the procedures associated with the exchange of amendments can become complicated.

[PDF format, 35 pages].

Attaching a Price to Greenhouse Gas Emissions with a Carbon Tax or Emissions Fee: Considerations and Potential Impacts

Attaching a Price to Greenhouse Gas Emissions with a Carbon Tax or Emissions Fee: Considerations and Potential Impacts.  Congressional Research Service. Jonathan L. Ramseur, Jane A. Leggett. March 22, 2019

The U.S. Fourth National Climate Assessment, released in 2018, concluded that “the impacts of global climate change are already being felt in the United States and are projected to intensify in the future—but the severity of future impacts will depend largely on actions taken to reduce greenhouse gas [GHG] emissions and to adapt to the changes that will occur.” Members of Congress and stakeholders articulate a wide range of perspectives over what to do, if anything, about GHG emissions, future climate change, and related impacts. If Congress were to consider establishing a program to reduce GHG emissions, one option would be to attach a price to GHG emissions with a carbon tax or GHG emissions fee. In the 115th Congress, Members introduced nine bills to establish a carbon tax or emissions fee program. However, many Members have expressed their opposition to such an approach. In particular, in the 115th Congress, the House passed a resolution “expressing the sense of Congress that a carbon tax would be detrimental to the United States economy.”

[PDF format, 40 pages].

An Overview of Small Business Contracting

An Overview of Small Business Contracting. Congressional Research Service. Robert Jay Dilger. March 8, 2019

Congress has broad authority to impose requirements upon the federal procurement process, that is, the process whereby agencies obtain goods and services from the private sector. One way in which Congress has exercised this authority is by adopting measures to promote contracting and subcontracting between “small businesses” and federal agencies. 

These measures, among other things, declare a congressional policy of ensuring that a “fair proportion” of federal contract and subcontract dollars is awarded to small businesses; establish government-wide and agency-specific goals for the percentage of federal contract and subcontract dollars awarded to small businesses; establish an annual Small Business Goaling Report to measure progress in meeting these goals; generally require federal agencies, under specified circumstances, to reserve contracts that have an anticipated value greater than the micro-purchase threshold (currently $10,000), but not greater than the simplified acquisition threshold (currently $250,000) exclusively for small businesses; authorize federal agencies, under specified circumstances, to set aside contracts that have an anticipated value greater than the simplified acquisition threshold exclusively for small businesses; authorize federal agencies to make sole source awards to small businesses when the award could not otherwise be made (e.g., only a single source is available, under urgent and compelling circumstances); authorize federal agencies to set aside contracts for, or grant other contracting preference to, specific types of small businesses (e.g., 8(a) small businesses, HUBZone small businesses, women-owned small businesses (WOSBs) and service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses (SDVOSBs)); and task the Small Business Administration (SBA) and other federal procurement officers with reviewing and restructuring proposed procurements to maximize opportunities for small business participation.

[PDF format, 32 pages].

Monetary Policy and the Federal Reserve: Current Policy and Conditions

Monetary Policy and the Federal Reserve: Current Policy and Conditions. Congressional Research Service. Marc Labonte. January 18, 2019

Congress has delegated responsibility for monetary policy to the Federal Reserve (the Fed), the nation’s central bank, but retains oversight responsibilities for ensuring that the Fed is adhering to its statutory mandate of “maximum employment, stable prices, and moderate long-term interest rates.” To meet its price stability mandate, the Fed has set a longer-run goal of 2% inflation.
The Fed’s control over monetary policy stems from its exclusive ability to alter the money supply and credit conditions more broadly. Normally, the Fed conducts monetary policy by setting a target for the federal funds rate, the rate at which banks borrow and lend reserves on an overnight basis. It meets its target through open market operations, financial transactions traditionally involving U.S. Treasury securities. Beginning in 2007, the federal funds target was reduced from 5.25% to a range of 0% to 0.25% in December 2008, which economists call the zero lower bound. By historical standards, rates were kept unusually low for an unusually long time to mitigate the effects of the financial crisis and its aftermath. Starting in December 2015, the Fed has been raising interest rates and expects to gradually raise rates further. The Fed raised rates once in 2016, three times in 2017, and four times in 2018, by 0.25 percentage points each time.

[PDF format, 22 pages].

Market-Based Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction Legislation: 108th Through 115th Congresses

Market-Based Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction Legislation: 108th Through 115th Congresses. Congressional Research Service. Jonathan L. Ramseur. January 25, 2019

Congressional interest in market-based greenhouse gas (GHG) emission control legislation has fluctuated over the past 15 years. During that time, legislation has often involved market-based approaches, such as a cap-and-trade system or a carbon tax or fee program. Both approaches would place a price—directly or indirectly—on GHG emissions or their inputs (e.g., fossil fuels), both would increase the price of fossil fuels, and both would reduce GHG emissions to some degree. Both would allow emission sources to choose the best way to meet their emission requirements or reduce costs, potentially by using market forces to minimize national costs of emission reductions. Preference between the two approaches ultimately depends on which variable policymakers prefer to precisely control—emission levels or emission prices.

[PDF format, 61 pages].

Introduction to the Legislative Process in the U.S. Congress

Introduction to the Legislative Process in the U.S. Congress. Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. Valerie Heitshusen. November 15, 2018

This report introduces the main steps through which a bill (or other item of business) may travel in the legislative process—from introduction to committee and floor consideration to possible presidential consideration. However, the process by which a bill can become law is rarely predictable and can vary significantly from bill to bill. In fact, for many bills, the process will not follow the sequence of congressional stages that are often understood to make up the legislative process. This report presents a look at each of the common stages through which a bill may move, but complications and variations abound in practice.

[PDF format, 15 pages].