Digging through the new bills: Across-the-board cuts and more

Updated on Jan. 9, 2015, at 4:30 p.m.

While new members of Congress are getting lost in the labyrinth below the U.S. Capitol, others already are staking out their positions with new legislation. More than 400 measures have been introduced this week, according to the Library of Congress’s website Congress.gov.

Much attention has focused on a Senate bill to authorize the Keystone XL pipeline, which Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has made a priority. With Republicans at the helm of both chambers, you also can find plenty of measures that would block President Barack Obama’s immigration proposals or chip away at the Affordable Care Act. But, if you dig deeper into this first batch of legislation, you’ll find others that could impact you.

Here are a few:

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FEDERAL BUDGETS
H.R. 39, H.R. 49, H.R. 58
Sponsor: Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.)

What are they? A trio of bills that would require across-the-board cuts in discretionary spending of 1, 2 or 5 percent in fiscal 2015 and 2016.

“Our nation is currently more than $18 trillion in debt. The time is now for Washington to start living within its means,” Blackburn said in a statement.

The legislation would exempt the departments of Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs.

H.R. 164, H.R. 165
Sponsor: Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.)

What are they? If the government hits its borrowing limit again and Congress refuses to raise it, the Treasury Department would have to pay off its debts before spending money elsewhere, under one bill. The other requires the White House to publish a list of spending priorities in case it reaches the debt limit. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has opposed prioritization measures in the past, saying they would not prevent a default but could damage the economy.

S. 19
Sponsor: Sen. David Vitter (R-La.)

What is it? Last year, the Treasury Department kept paying the government’s bills months after the nation hit the debt ceiling. The department used so-called “extraordinary measures.” This bill would prohibit their use and would require the department to update Congress daily on its balances.

FEDERAL OPERATIONS
H.R. 55, H.R. 65
Sponsor: Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas)

What is it? The bills would require the Director of National Intelligence to report on the number of contractors participating in intelligence activities. Jackson Lee submitted a similar bill last session, which would have directed the intelligence community to cut the number of contractors with top-secret clearances by 25 percent.

H.R. 185
Sponsor: Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.)

What is it? Goodlatte has revived a bill that passed the House only to die last year in the Senate under Democratic leadership. The “Regulatory Accountability Act of 2015” would impose new requirements on agencies seeking to adopt major regulations.

“This bill will streamline and bring transparency to the regulatory process, ensuring that our farmers, ranchers and small businesses are not regulated out of business,” said co-sponsor Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) in a statement. “Increasing transparency and accountability will give those who will actually feel the impact of proposed regulations, rather than Washington bureaucrats, a larger voice in the process.”

S.71
Sponsor: Sen. David Vitter (R-La.)

What is it? “A bill to preserve open competition and Federal Government neutrality towards the labor relations of Federal Government contractors on Federal and federally funded construction projects.”

S. 111
Sponsor: Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.)

What is it? Consider this Heller’s invitation to come to Vegas. The bill says agencies cannot rule out any locations for their events and conferences just because those cities are considered resort or vacation destinations.

PAY & BENEFITS
S. 16
Sponsor: Sen. David Vitter (R-La.)

What is it? The “No Washington Exemption” Act would require political appointees within the executive branch, along with the President, Vice President and members of Congress, to buy their health insurance on HealthCare.gov. They would receive the same subsidies as other Americans who get health insurance through the HealthCare.gov Web portal. Some congressional staffers now buy health insurance that way, but the federal government, as their employer, pays the lion’s share of the cost, as it does with other federal employees.

CYBERSECURITY
H.R. 53
Sponsor: Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas)

What is it? The bill would codify a Homeland Security office that focuses on recruiting and retaining cybersecurity professionals.

H.R. 60
Sponsor: Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas)

What is it? This bill would require the Director of National Intelligence to conduct a study on the feasibility of establishing a Cyber Defense National Guard.

H.R. 234
Sponsor: Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.)

What is it? This bill would allow the intelligence community and other cybersecurity entities to share certain types of cyber threat intelligence and information.

S. 135
Sponsor: Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.)

What is it? This bill would prohibit agencies from releasing vulnerabilities in data security technologies.

HOMELAND SECURITY
H.R. 229
Sponsor: Rep. Candice S. Miller (R-Mich.)

What is it? This bill would require the secretary of the Homeland Security to introduce a biometric exit data system.

IRS
H.R. 25
Sponsor: Rep. Rob Woodall (R-Ga.)

What is it? The bill would get rid of the IRS. Instead, states would administer a national sales tax. The bill has 57 original cosponsors, all Republicans. Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) has introduced H.R. 27, a related bill that would abolish the tax code by the end of 2019.

OFFICE OF PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT
H.R. 138
Sponsor: Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.)

What is it? The bill would abolish the Affordable Care Act and, in its place, set up a new health program to be administered by the Office of Personnel Management. The program would offer the same health care benefits to the public that federal employees now have.

VETERANS AFFAIRS
H.R. 203
Sponsor: Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minn.)

What is it? The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, named after a veteran who took his own life, would require the Veterans Affairs Department to set up a central website for mental health services, evaluate its mental health care and suicide prevention programs on a yearly basis and launch a pilot program to attract more psychiatrists by offering to repay their student loans. A lone senator, Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), blocked the bill from passage last month over its estimated cost of $22 million. He has since retired.

H.R. 215
Sponsor: Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.)

What is it? This bill seeks to clarify the Veterans Affairs Department’s administrative expenses during sequestration by amending the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985

H.R. 216
Sponsor: Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.)

What is it? Among other things, this bill would amend title 38 of the U.S. Code to establish a Chief Strategy Officer at the Veterans Affairs Department. It would also require the VA secretary to submit to Congress a Future-Years Veterans Program as well as a quadrennial veterans review.

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