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Thursday, June 21, 2012

The First Day of a New Congress: A Guide to Proceedings on the House Floor

Judy Schneider
Specialist on the Congress

This report focuses on the floor activities of the House during its first formal session in a new Congress, and serves as a guide for those participating in or watching these proceedings.

The House is not a continuing body. It ends at the conclusion of each two-year Congress and must reconstitute itself at the beginning of the next Congress. Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution sets terms for Members of the House at two years. The House must choose its Speaker and officers and determine the chamber’s internal rules every two years.

The Constitution mandates that Congress convene at noon on January 3, unless it has earlier passed a law designating a different day. Although no officers have been elected when the House first convenes, some officers from the previous Congress perform certain functions.

The House follows a well-established first day routine of electing and swearing in the Speaker, administering the oath of office to its Members, electing and swearing in its administrative officers, and adopting its rules of procedure. It also establishes its daily hour of meeting.

On opening day, the House usually adopts resolutions assigning its Members to serve on committees. This process often extends for several more weeks. The committee assignment process occurs primarily within the party groups—the Republican Conference and the Democratic Caucus. Assignments cannot be considered on the House floor until both of these groups have adopted rules governing committee assignments.

Other routine organizational business may also be taken up on the House floor on the first day. The Speaker usually announces his/her policies on certain floor practices; a resolution is adopted providing for a joint session of Congress to receive the President’s State of the Union Message; and often a resolution is adopted to allow a judge or a Member of Congress to administer the oath of office to Members-elect who are absent due to illness or other reasons.

Some resolutions on opening day are dependent on specific circumstances and do not occur at the beginning of each new Congress. In inaugural years, the House must adopt a resolution to authorize the use of the Capitol for the inauguration activities. At the outset of a new Congress following a presidential election, the House must also adopt a resolution providing for the counting of electoral votes for the President and Vice President of the United States by the new Congress.

Date of Report: June 15, 2012
Number of Pages: 11
Order Number: RL30725
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Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD): FY2013 Appropriations

Maggie McCarty, Coordinator
Specialist in Housing Policy

Libby Perl
Specialist in Housing Policy

Katie Jones
Analyst in Housing Policy

Eugene Boyd
Analyst in Federalism and Economic Development Policy

The President’s FY2013 budget requests nearly $34 billion in net new budget authority for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in FY2013. This is about $4 billion less than was provided in FY2012. However, in terms of new appropriations for HUD’s programs and activities, the President’s budget actually requests an increase of more than $512 million compared to FY2012. The difference—a decrease in net budget authority versus an increase in new appropriations—is attributable to an estimated increase in the amount of excess receipts available from the FHA insurance fund, which are used to offset the cost of the HUD budget. The President’s budget requests increases in funding for public housing and homelessness assistance grants. The President’s budget requests decreases in funding for the project-based Section 8 rental assistance program and several community development-related programs.

S. 2322, the Transportation, HUD, and Related Agencies FY2013 appropriations bill reported by the Senate Committee on Appropriations, includes about $35 billion in net new budget authority for HUD. That is about $1 billion more than the President’s request and more than $2 billion less than was provided in FY2012. In terms of new appropriations for HUD’s programs and activities (not accounting for offsets), S. 2322 would provide about $1 billion more than the President’s request and $2 billion more than FY2012. The largest increase is provided for the project-based Section 8 rental assistance account.

The Transportation, HUD and Related Agencies Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee approved a draft FY2013 funding bill on June 7, 2011. According to a committee press release, the bill includes $33.6 billion for HUD.

Date of Report: June 15, 2012
Number of Pages: 23
Order Number: R42517
Price: $29.95

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The Presidential Nominating Process and the National Party Conventions, 2012:Frequently Asked Questions

Kevin J. Coleman
Analyst in Elections

This report provides answers to frequently asked questions about the presidential nominating process, including how the delegates to the national conventions are chosen, the differences between a caucus and a primary, national party rules changes for 2012, and the national conventions themselves. It is not a comprehensive report on all aspects of the presidential nominating process. 

The Nominating Process 

The presidential nominating process is a subject of enduring congressional and national interest. Presidential elections are the only national elections held in the United States, and the initial phase of primaries and caucuses changes every four years. Congress has a legislative, as well as a practical and political, interest in the presidential nominating process. Presidential nominees lead the party ticket in the fall election; the elected President will set many policy and political goals in the ensuing four years; and many Members of Congress will serve as delegates to the major party conventions. No legislation has been introduced in the 112th Congress to reform the presidential nominating process, although several related bills would eliminate taxpayer financing of the national party conventions, including H.R. 359, H.R. 414, H.R. 3463, and S. 194. 

The 2012 Rules 

The 2012 presidential primary season featured a protracted contest for Republicans that began in January and continued until the end of May, when the presumptive nominee claimed the nomination. Media coverage of the primary season focused on the Republican contest because the incumbent President faced only token—if any—opposition in Democratic party primaries and caucuses, but also because of two new Republican party rules for 2012 that contributed to the party’s comparatively long primary battle. In an effort to decrease the large cluster of contests at the beginning of the primary and caucus calendar, the phenomenon known as front-loading, the Republican Party adopted these two important changes to national party rules for the 2012 primary process:

  • delegate selection events could not be held before the first Tuesday in March, with exceptions for Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, which could hold their events on or after February 1 (regardless, Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina scheduled January events for 2012); and 
  • a related change required states that held contests before April 1 to allocate delegates on a proportional basis, although it did not impose a specific proportional system. Many state parties used winner-take-all in the past, but the new rule required that delegates be awarded to presidential candidates in proportion to their primary vote totals, in some fashion. 

The rules changes reduced front-loading, but they also prolonged the contest in comparison to past primary cycles and led to speculation that the Republican convention might need more than one ballot to choose the nominee, an unprecedented occurrence in recent decades. That possibility seems remote now, although state party rules for binding delegates to vote a certain way at the national convention vary. According to state party rules, in 42 states and territories, the entire delegation is bound for one or more ballots at the national convention; in 13 states and territories, the delegates are not bound; and in Louisiana, approximately half the delegates are bound and half are not. By comparison, Democratic delegates are only bound by conscience to reflect the sentiments of those who elected them. 

The National Conventions 

The national party conventions have evolved over the past half century and now serve as the forum for officially ratifying the results of the primary season, rather than the place where the nominee is actually chosen. The last time more than one ballot was required to nominate a presidential candidate—a so-called “brokered” convention—occurred in 1952. Even so, the conventions remain important as media events that launch each major party’s general election campaign. In 2012, the major parties’ nominations will be officially conferred when Republicans meet in Tampa, Florida, from August 27-30 and Democrats meet in Charlotte, North Carolina from September 3-6.

Date of Report: June 12, 2012
Number of Pages: 26
Order Number: R42533
Price: $29.95

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The Violence Against Women Act: Overview, Legislation, and Federal Funding

Lisa M. Seghetti
Section Research Manager

Jerome P. Bjelopera
Specialist in Organized Crime and Terrorism

In 1994, Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA, P.L. 103-322). The act was intended to change attitudes toward domestic violence, foster awareness of domestic violence, improve services and provisions for victims, and revise the manner in which the criminal justice system responds to domestic violence. The legislation created new programs within the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services that aimed to reduce domestic violence and improve response to and recovery from domestic violence incidents. VAWA primarily addresses certain types of violent crime through grant programs to state, tribal, and local governments; nonprofit organizations; and universities. VAWA programs target the crimes of intimate partner violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.

In 1995, the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) was created administratively within the Department of Justice to administer federal grants authorized under VAWA. In 2002, Congress codified the OVW as a separate office within the Department of Justice (DOJ). Since its creation, the OVW has awarded more than $4.7 billion in grants. While the OVW administers the majority of VAWA authorized grants, other federal agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Office of Justice Programs, also manage VAWA grants.

Since 1994, VAWA has been modified and reauthorized several times. In 2000, Congress reauthorized the programs under VAWA, enhanced federal domestic violence and stalking penalties, added protections for battered nonimmigrants, and created programs for elderly and disabled women. In 2005, Congress again reauthorized VAWA. In addition to reauthorizing the programs under VAWA, the legislation enhanced penalties for repeat stalking offenders; added additional protections for battered and trafficked nonimmigrants; and created programs for sexual assault victims and American Indian victims of domestic violence and related crimes; and created programs designed to improve the public health response to domestic violence.

Authorization for appropriations for the programs under VAWA expired in 2011. Two bills have passed in both chambers that would reauthorize most of the programs under VAWA, among other things. On April 26, 2012, the Senate amended and passed the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2011 (S. 1925). On May 16, 2012, the House passed an amended version of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2012 (H.R. 4970). H.R. 4970 differs in substantive ways from S. 1925, including with respect to the VAWA-related immigration provisions, the authority it would give Indian tribes to enforce domestic violence and related crimes against non-Indian individuals, and in the populations it would include under its definition of underserved population.

In brief, some of the more contentious issues that have surfaced during the debates in both chambers include

  • a proposed temporary increase to the cap on the number of U visas available for nonimmigrants; 
  • a proposal to place new restrictions on the VAWA immigration provisions for nonimmigrant victims seeking to obtain legal status; 
  • a proposal to amend the certification process for U visa applicants; 
  • a proposed inclusion of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) population in the definitions of underserved population; and 
  •  a proposal to give American Indian tribes increased jurisdictional power over domestic violence cases involving non-tribal victims and/or perpetrators. 

Following the passage of H.R. 4970, a procedural complication referred to as a “blue-slip problem” emerged that has the potential to stall negotiations between the two chambers’ versions of the bill. According to the Origination Clause of the U.S. Constitution, all revenue-raising legislation must originate in the House. S. 1925, as passed by the Senate, contains a provision that would increase fees on diversity visas.

Date of Report: June 7, 2012
Number of Pages: 44
Order Number: R42499
Price: $29.95

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Tribal Criminal Jurisdiction over Non-Indians in S. 1925, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Reauthorization

Jane M. Smith
Legislative Attorney

Richard M. Thompson II
Legislative Attorney

Domestic and dating violence in Indian country are reportedly at epidemic proportions. However, there is a practical jurisdictional issue when the violence involves a non-Indian perpetrator and an Indian victim. Indian tribes only have criminal jurisdiction over crimes involving Indian perpetrators within their jurisdictions. Most states only have jurisdiction over crimes involving a non-Indian perpetrator and a non-Indian victim within Indian country located in the state. Although the federal government has jurisdiction over crime committed by non-Indians against Indians in Indian country, offenses such as domestic and dating violence tend to be prosecuted with less frequency than other crimes. This creates a practical jurisdictional problem.

S. 1925, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, which passed the Senate, would recognize and affirm participating tribes’ inherent sovereign authority to exercise special domestic violence jurisdiction over domestic violence involving non-Indian perpetrators and Indian victims occurring within the tribe’s jurisdiction. It is not clear whether Congress has authority to restore the tribes’ inherent sovereignty over non-members, or whether such authority would have to be a delegation of federal authority. By contrast, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2012 (H.R. 4970) does not provide for tribal jurisdiction over non-Indians for domestic and dating violence. Accordingly, this report focuses on the tribal jurisdiction provisions of S. 1925.

In a series of cases, the Supreme Court outlined the contours of tribal criminal jurisdiction. In United States v. Wheeler, the Court held that tribes have inherent sovereign authority to try their own members. In Oliphant v. Suquamish Indian Tribe, the Court held the tribes had lost inherent sovereignty to try non-Indians. The Court in Duro v. Reina determined that the tribes had also lost the inherent authority to try non-member Indians. In response to Duro, Congress passed an amendment to the Indian Civil Rights Act that recognized the inherent tribal power (not federal delegated power) to try non-member Indians. S. 1925 would apparently supersede the Oliphant ruling and “recognize and affirm the inherent power” of the tribes to try non-Indians for domestic violence offenses.

The Supreme Court stated in United States v. Lara that Congress has authority to relax the restrictions on a tribe’s inherent sovereignty to allow it to exercise inherent authority to try nonmember Indians. However, given changes on the Court, and, as Justice Thomas stated, the “schizophrenic” nature of Indian policy and the confused state of Indian law, it is not clear that today’s Supreme Court would hold that Congress has authority to expand the tribes’ inherent sovereignty. It may be that Congress can only delegate federal power to the tribes to try non- Indians.

The dichotomy between delegated and inherent power of tribes has important constitutional implications. If Congress is deemed to delegate its own power to the tribes to prosecute crimes, all the protections accorded criminal defendants in the Bill of Rights will apply. If, on the other hand, Congress is permitted to recognize the tribes’ inherent sovereignty, the Constitution will not apply. Instead, criminal defendants must rely on statutory protections under the Indian Civil Rights Act or tribal law. Although the protections found in these statutory and constitutional sources are similar, there are several important distinctions between them. Most importantly, if inherent sovereignty is recognized and only statutory protections are triggered, defendants may be subjected to double jeopardy for the same act; may not be able to exercise fully their right to counsel; may have no right to prosecution by a grand jury indictment; may not have access to a representative jury of their peers; and may have limited federal appellate review of their cases.

Date of Report: June 4, 2012
Number of Pages: 19
Order Number: R42488
Price: $29.95

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Federal Contracting and Subcontracting with Small Businesses: Issues in the 112th Congress

Kate M. Manuel
Legislative Attorney

Erika K. Lunder
Legislative Attorney

Congress has generally broad authority to impose requirements upon the federal procurement process, or the process whereby agencies obtain goods and services from the private sector. One of the many ways in which Congress has exercised this authority is by enacting measures intended to promote contracting and subcontracting with “small businesses” by federal agencies. Among other things, these measures (1) declare a congressional policy of ensuring that a “fair proportion” of federal contract and subcontract dollars are awarded to small businesses; (2) establish government-wide and agency-specific goals for the percentage of contract and/or subcontract dollars awarded to small businesses; (3) require or authorize agencies to conduct competitions in which only small businesses may compete (i.e., set-asides), or make noncompetitive awards to them in circumstances when such awards could not be made to other businesses; and (4) task the Small Business Administration (SBA) and officers of the procuring agencies with reviewing and helping to restructure proposed procurements so as to maximize opportunities for small business participation. A companion report, CRS Report R42391, Legal Authorities Governing Federal Contracting and Subcontracting with Small Businesses, by Kate M. Manuel and Erika K. Lunder, provides an overview of these statutes, the regulations implementing them, and the various judicial and other tribunals that construe them.

This report describes and analyzes measures that Members of the 112th Congress have enacted or proposed in response to particular issues pertaining to small business contracting and subcontracting. The majority of such measures appear to address (1) the standards under which firms’ size is measured, including the establishment of size standards for “early stage” small businesses and “mid-sized” firms (H.R. 585, H.R. 1812, H.R. 3184, H.R. 3987, H.R. 4121, H.R. 4310, S. 1590); (2) government-wide or agency-specific goals for contracting and subcontracting with small businesses (H.R. 2424, H.R. 2921, H.R. 2949, H.R. 3184, H.R. 3438, H.R. 3779, H.R. 3850, H.R. 4048, H.R. 4310, H.R. 5829, S. 180, S. 1110, S. 1154, S. 1334, S. 3213); and (3) eligibility for the set-aside programs for particular types of small businesses (e.g., HUBZone small businesses) (H.R. 598, H.R. 2131, H.R. 2416, H.R. 2424, H.R. 2921, H.R. 3754, H.R. 5729, S. 236, S. 633, S. 976, S. 1334, S. 1756, S. 1874, S. 2157).

Other measures address federal contractors’ obligations vis-à-vis small business subcontractors (H.R. 2424, H.R. 3893, H.R. 4310, S. 370, S. 1334); limitations on the amount of work that may be subcontracted under contracts awarded under the authority of the Small Business Act (H.R. 3893, H.R. 4310); expedited payment of small business contractors (S. 1736); increases to the maximum surety bond amount that SBA may guarantee (H.R. 12, H.R. 2424, H.R. 4310, S. 1334, S. 1549, S. 1660, S. 2187); bundling and consolidation of requirements into contracts unsuitable for award to small businesses (H.R. 2424, H.R. 4081, H.R. 4310, S. 1334); and agency “insourcing” of functions performed by small businesses (H.R. 3851, H.R. 3893, H.R. 3980, H.R. 4310). Yet other measures address the responsibilities of SBA Procurement Center Representatives and agency Offices of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (H.R. 3851, H.R. 3980, H.R. 4310); the circumstances in which agencies may set aside contracts for small businesses or make non-competitive awards to them (H.R. 240, H.R. 4118, H.R. 4203, S. 129, S. 2172); the use of small businesses when making “small purchases” (H.R. 2424, S. 1334); mentorprotégé programs wherein large businesses provide financial and other assistance to small businesses (P.L. 112-81, H.R. 3985, H.R. 4310); the deterrence and punishment of fraud in small business contracting programs (H.R. 3184, H.R. 4206, H.R. 4310, S. 633, S. 914, S. 1184); and contracting or subcontracting with small businesses by particular agencies (P.L. 112-74, P.L. 112- 81, H.R. 4310, S. 1546). 

Date of Report: June 6, 2012
Number of Pages: 40
Order Number: R42390
Price: $29.95

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