5 things Congress needs to confront in 2018

Photo: MGN Online

WASHINGTON (Sinclair Broadcast Group) – Congress will face several key legislative deadlines when they return from holiday break.

The items on Congress’s to-do list include government funding, Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA) and disaster funding. The most pressing will be funding the government in order to avoid a government shutdown Jan. 19.

1. Short-term spending bill

The current short-term spending bill expires Jan. 19. Congress passed a continuing resolution Dec. 21, 2017 to keep the government funded into the New Year. The Congress uses "congressional resolution" to buy more time to address key legislative functions.

A congressional resolution is “legislation in the form of a joint resolution [requires approval of both chambers] enacted by Congress, when the new fiscal year is about to begin or has begun, to provide budget authority for federal agencies and programs to continue in operation until the regular appropriations acts are enacted, according to the Senate glossary.

However, when the Congress returns, they will have about two weeks to pass a bipartisan bill and avoid a government shutdown.

The short-term spending bill that was passed at the end of last year, also provided an extension for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)

2. Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)

The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) will receive funding through the end of March 2018. CHIP was signed into law in 1997 and is jointly funded by both the federal government and individual states.

In 2016, approximately 9 million people were enrolled in the program, according to the annual enrollment report on Medicaid.gov.

The program “provides low-cost health coverage to children in families provides low-cost health coverage to children in families that earn too much money to qualify for Medicaid. In some states, CHIP covers pregnant women. Each state offers CHIP coverage, and works closely with its state Medicaid program,” according to HeathCare.gov.

The website also says that CHIP covers “routine checkups, immunizations, doctor visits, prescriptions, dental and vision care, inpatient and outpatient hospital care, laboratory and X-ray services and emergency services.”

State health departments have already begun to notify families that funding could expire for the program in March.

Jimmy Kimmel gave an emotional opening statement on his show calling for support of the program.

3. Section 702 of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA)

A part of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA) is also expected to expire Jan. 19. The portion of the act set to expire is Section 702.

“Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act authorizes the Intelligence Community to target the communications of non-U.S. persons located outside the United States for foreign intelligence purposes,” according to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

This part of the act allows U.S. government to gather emails and phone calls of foreign targets without a search warrant.

4. Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA)

On March 5, Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA) program will expire. President Barack Obama announced the creation of the program in June 2012.

The act granted amnesty to nearly 800,000 young immigrants and temporarily halted deportation proceedings. It also granted work authorization. President Obama in 2014 tried to expand on this program using an executive order but it was blocked by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

President Donald Trump tweeted just before the new year that DACA would not happen without the border wall.

On Tuesday, he blamed Democrats for not making progress on DACA and said Hispanics will “fall in love with Republicans.”

5. Disaster funding

In 2017, three hurricanes caused catastrophic damage to the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S. mainland. Months later, many of the affected areas are still recovering. Nearly half of Puerto Rico is still without power.

California also experienced several wildfire outbreaks that caused horrific destruction in 2017. Officials announced the fires were 88 percent contained as of Dec. 26. They incinerated more than 440 square miles of Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. The St. Thomas fire was declared the largest wildfire in California history.

On Dec. 21, 2017, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a $81 billion emergency aid bill to help recover from these natural disasters. The bill was met by opposition in the Senate.


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