House Watch – January 23, 2023

Welcome to the latest edition of House Watch, where FreedomWorks informs activists and partners on upcoming House votes. The House is back in session tomorrow to vote on a wide array of bills and will consider a bill under an open rule (H.R. 21), where any member may offer an amendment to the bill on the floor for the first time since 2016. This is only possible thanks to the efforts of conservatives fighting to make the House more responsive to the needs of the people. 

The Senate is back this week and will focus primarily on confirming nominations. Former Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts (R-NE) will be sworn in as the newest member of the U.S. Senate, replacing former Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE). 

Below you will find the full list of bills the House will be voting on this week.  

H.R. 159: To Implement Merit-Based Reforms To The Civil Service Hiring System That Replace Degree-Based Hiring With Skills- And Competency-Based Hiring, And For Other Purposes, As Amended. (Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC-05)/ Committee on Oversight and Accountability; Committee on Budget)

  • Background: In the past few years, companies across countless industries in the private sector have changed their hiring practices to allow for opportunities for higher-paying jobs to applicants without a traditional four-year degree. This bill would allow the federal government to ensure it’s hiring the best and brightest regardless of an applicant’s formal education. 
  • This bill would change hiring practices for the civil service to focus more on experience and skills required for the position and less on a college degree. It would establish a system to share qualified applicants among agencies and would create various reporting requirements. 
  • Key Quote: Rep. Foxx said, “Every hardworking taxpayer in this country deserves a federal government that’s built upon a foundation that breeds efficiency–and to achieve that end, the outdated federal hiring process must be reformed. In its current state, this archaic process serves more as a deterrent to attracting talented individuals, and it seriously undermines the federal workforce’s ability to properly serve the American people.” 

H.R. 300: To Amend Chapter 3 Of Title 5, United States Code, To Require The Publication Of Settlement Agreements, And For Other Purposes, As Amended. (Rep. Gary Palmer (R-AL-06)/ Committee on Budget)

  • This bill would create a database where each executive branch agency must submit the terms of criminal and civil settlement agreements, including a description of the claims each party settled; the number of attorney fees awarded; the amount paid to settle the claims; and a list of state/local governments that may be affected by the settlement agreement. The bill would also protect the confidentiality of certain settlement agreements. The bill is apparently intended to expose–but does not prohibit–settlement agreements that divert money from taxpayers to third-party (generally left-wing) advocacy groups. 
  • More Information: Last Congress, Rep. Lance Gooden (R-TX-05) introduced H.R. 5773, which barred the federal government from entering into settlement agreements that provide payments to third parties (with very limited exceptions). 
  • FW View: Exposing when the government sends money to liberal or left-wing third-party groups is an important step towards greater accountability for taxpayer money and ensuring that the government is not playing political games when it comes to settlements.   

Con. Res. 7: Commending The Bravery, Courage, And Resolve Of The Women And Men Of Iran Demonstrating In More Than 133 Cities And Risking Their Safety To Speak Out Against The Iranian Regime’s Human Rights Abuses, As Amended. (Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-NY-24)/ Committee on Foreign Affairs)

  • Background: In September 2022, Mahsa Amini, an Iranian citizen, died after being detained by Iran’s “morality police” for allegedly not abiding by Iran’s strict dress code. Nationwide protests soon broke out over Amini’s death. The Iranian government has responded to the protests by attacking protestors and shutting down the internet. 
  • This resolution would condemn the beating and death of Mahsa Amini; condemn the violent suppression by the Iranian government of women and men participating in the demonstrations and call for transparent accountability for all killings of protestors by Iranian security forces; support the people of Iran who are protesting against human rights abuses committed by the Iranian regime; support internet freedom programs that circumvent the Iranian government’s effort to censor internet access; support the Biden administration’s ongoing efforts to sanction Iranian officials and encourage additional sanctions; prioritize efforts to expand unrestricted internet access in Iran, and develop a strategy to prevent the Iranian government from obtaining and using facial recognition tools for the use of mass surveillance; encourage the private sector to ensure that protestors and activists have access to tools needed to circumvent government surveillance and repression; welcome the efforts of the international community to support protestors in Iran; and call on the international community to publicly condemn the violence by the Iranian regime, speak out against human rights violations, and impose human rights sanctions on Iran. 

H.R. 255: To Amend The Disaster Recovery Reform Act Of 2018 To Develop A Study Regarding Streamlining And Consolidating Information Collection And Preliminary Damage Assessments, And For Other Purposes. (Res. Commissioner Jennifer Gonzalez-Colon (R-PR-AL)/ Committee on Infrastructure and Transportation)

  • Background: The Disaster Reform Recovery Act of 2018 acknowledged the shared responsibility for disaster response and recovery, aimed to reduce the complexity of FEMA, and build the nation’s capacity for the next catastrophic event.
  • This bill would amend the Disaster Recovery Reform Act of 2018 to study how to reduce the paperwork burden of disaster assistance applications. The bill would also create a working group to identify areas of duplication in preliminary damage assessments and how best to expedite preliminary damage assessments. A report would be required on these efforts.

H.R. 259: To Provide For An Online Repository For Certain Reporting Requirements For Recipients Of Federal Disaster Assistance, And For Other Purposes. (Res. Commissioner Jennifer Gonzalez-Colon (R-PR-AL)/ Committee on Infrastructure and Transportation; Committee on Small Business; Committee on Financial Services) 

  • This bill would create an online repository to detail how much disaster assistance federal agencies provide to particular projects.
  • FW View: Increased government accountability will help ensure that taxpayer dollars are being spent appropriately. 

H.R 290: To Provide For Transparent Licensing Of Commercial Remote Sensing Systems, And For Other Purposes. (Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK-03)/ Committee on Science, Space, and Technology)

  • Background: The U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act is designed to promote commercial space flight by postponing significant regulatory oversight of private space flight companies until 2023; extending the period during which the government indemnifies commercial spaceflight companies for third-party damages beyond the company’s required liability insurance; and granting private companies the right to own resources collected in space, such as materials from asteroid mining.
  • This bill would extend the reporting requirements of the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act from September 30, 2020, to September 30, 2030, and would add a new reporting requirement for the Secretary of Commerce to list the applications and licenses submitted.  

H.R 342: To Amend The Energy Policy Act Of 2005 To Require Reporting Relating To Certain Cost-Share Requirements, And For Other Purposes. (Rep. Jay Obernolte (R-CA-23)/ Committee on Science, Space, and Technology)

  • Background: The Energy Policy Act of 2005 called for the development of grant programs, testing initiatives, and tax incentives that promote alternative fuels and advanced vehicle production and use. Currently, the Department of Energy requires cost sharing from non-federal partners at a minimum of 20 percent for research and development programs and 50 percent for demonstration and commercial application programs.
  • This bill would amend the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to require the Department of Energy to report on the department’s authority to reduce or eliminate cost-sharing requirements. 

H.R. 388: To Amend Title 40, United States Code, To Eliminate The Leasing Authority Of The Securities And Exchange Commission, And For Other Purposes. (Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC-AL)/ Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure)

  • Background: Congress first granted the SEC independent leasing authority in 1990. There have been numerous instances of questionable SEC leasing practices. On one occasion, the SEC signed a $556.8 million, 10-year lease for 900,000 square feet of space that it did not end up using
  • This bill would revoke the independent real estate leasing authority of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and direct the Government Accountability Office to update its 2016 report on independent real-estate leasing authority. It would also transfer authority over SEC real estate to the General Services Administration (GSA), the federal government’s civilian real-estate arm. 

H.R. 346: To Establish A Task Force On Improvements For Notices To Air Missions, And For Other Purposes, As Amended. (Sponsored By Rep. Pete Stauber (R-MN-08)/ Committee on Transportation And Infrastructure)

  • Background: The Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Notice to Air Mission (NOTAM) provides pilots and airlines with information that could impact flights. It was the system that malfunctioned in early January, causing thousands of flight delays across the country.
  • This bill would create a task force at the FAA to evaluate and improve NOTAM. The task force would be made up of various stakeholders in commercial aviation, including airlines, airports, labor unions representing pilots and personnel like air traffic controllers, as well as various business and aviation groups. 

H.R. 399: To Clarify The Primary Functions And Duties Of The Office Of Advocacy Of The Small Business Administration, And For Other Purposes. (Sponsored By Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo-03)/Committee on Small Business)

  • This bill would amend the Small Business Act to clarify the duties of the Office of Advocacy of the Small Business Administration. The bill would expand its mission to include representing the views of small businesses before foreign governments and international entities. 

H.R. 400: To Amend The Small Business Investment Act Of 1958 To Increase The Amount That May Be Invested In Small Business Investment Companies. (Sponsored By Rep. Chu/Committee on Small Business)

  • Background: A Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) is a privately-owned investment company that provides a viable alternative to venture capital firms for many small enterprises seeking startup capital.
  • This bill would increase the amount of money that banks can invest in Small Business Investment Companies (SBIC) from 5 percent to 15 percent of a bank’s capital

H.R. 21: Strategic Production Response Act. (Sponsored By Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA-05)/Committee on Energy And Commerce)

  • Background: President Biden depleted our nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve stockpile to its lowest levels since 1983 to bring down the cost of gasoline. According to The Wall Street Journal, the Biden administration leased fewer acres for drilling offshore and on federal land than any other administration since World War II.
  • This bill would require the administration to increase oil and gas production on federal lands before tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. 
  • FW view: The government’s decision to limit oil and gas production has hurt Americans by forcing them to pay higher prices at the pump. The Biden administration’s decision to use the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to counteract high gas prices has left the country vulnerable when an actual emergency happens.

H.R_: To Amend The Small Business Act To Increase Transparency, And For Other Purposes. (Sponsored By Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN-02)/Committee on Small Business)

  • This bill would require the Small Business Administration (SBA) to report certain metrics related to the disbursement of microloans to small businesses, including the number, amount, and percentage of such loans that went into default; the extent to which microloans are provided to small businesses in rural areas; and the average size, interest rate, and fees charged for each microloan.

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