Current Legislative Update:

  • February 2015

    February 2015 President Obama delivered his sixth State of the Union Address. In it, he outlined his…
    Read more...



Legislative Updates

Keeping you up to date on policy action from the presidential administration and the U.S. Congress.

February 2015

Download PDF:
President Obama delivered his sixth State of the Union Address. In it, he outlined his plans to focus on middle-class economics and ensure more Americans have access to the American Dream. To find out more see: Remarks by the President in State of the Union Address | January 20, 2015


» Energy, Transportation, and Environment

Keystone Pipeline XL Vote Blocked by Senate Democrats
Democrats in the Senate blocked a vote to end debate on the Keystone pipeline, arguing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did not give enough time for debate and amendments on the issue. Earlier this year, the House voted 266 to 153, largely along party lines to approve the bill. This temporary block will extend debate on the pipeline, and a vote will take place later this month. President Obama has stated he will veto any measure on Keystone that comes across his desk.

Read more: GOP-Controlled House Votes To Approve Keystone Pipeline despite Veto Threat (Washington Post)
Read more: Democrats block Keystone XL bill (CNN)

Administration Reveals New Regulations on Methane Emissions
In line with the administration’s goals to reduce greenhouse gases, new regulations were released directed
at methane gas emissions. The oil and gas industry is charged with reducing methane emissions by 45
percent by 2015 from 2012 levels. Methane is 25 times more harmful than carbon dioxide. Opponents in
the oil and gas industry caution against the regulations, stating they could potentially drive up costs.

Read more: Obama Moves on Methane Emissions (The Hill)
Read more: Obama’s Move to Cut Methane Emissions May Hinge on the Economy (Los Angeles Times)

» Health and Human Services

In the second round of Open Enrollment, 9.5 million have signed up for health care. The Department of Health and Human Services had set a goal for 9.1 million people to sign up for health care this year before enrollment ends on February 15th. This is a good indication that this year’s enrollment process was much improved over last year’s, even amidst administration changes. Centers of Medicare and Medicaid head, Marilyn Tavenner, announced she will step down.

Read more: U.S. Says 9.5 Million People Enroll for 2015 Obamacare Insurance (Reuters)

» International Affairs

President Obama Proposes New Relationship with Cuba
Travel restrictions more than four decades old between the United States and Cuba are being eased, allowing businesses to enter Cuba and individuals to visit the island. A travel embargo has been in place since the rise of Dictator Fidel Castro in the 1960s. Since then, the severed relationship prevented many Cuban immigrants living in America from returning to Cuba to see family or visit their home country. Rebuilding the relationship between the U.S. and Cuba includes re-establishing the American embassy in Cuba, easing travel restrictions for individuals, and allowing Americans to import goods from Cuba.

Read more: Starting Friday, U.S. Will Ease Restrictions on Travel to Cuba (The New York Times)
Read more: Charting a New Course on Cuba (White House Office of the Press Secretary)

» Law, Justice, and Ethics

Supreme Court continues October 2014 Term
The Supreme Court began its term earlier this January with cases that will have far reaching-impact. The Supreme Court also announced it will decide on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage bans in the states and whether states have the power to not recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. Here are some cases from the Court’s December, January and February sitting:

  • Alabama Democratic Conference v. Alabama and Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama, both cases challenge redistricting plans in Alabama under the Voting Rights Act of 1964. 
    Read more: Alabama’s Racial Gerrymandering Goes Before the Supreme Court (Aljazeera America)
  • Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission is an action instituted by the legislature. The legislature contends the Elections Clause of the U.S. Constitution prohibits independent commissions from determining the time, place, and manner, including redistricting of elections. 
    Read more: Supreme Court to Review Independent Redistricting Commissions (Los Angeles Times)
  • Comptroller v. Wynne will determine if the Dormant Commerce Clause prevents states from taxing the income of their residents by requiring a credit for taxes for income earned in other states. 
    Read more: Supreme Court to Hear Case on State-To-State Taxing (Delmarva Daily Times)
  • In Henien v. North Carolina, the Court in an 8-1 decision held that a search based on a police officer’s reasonable mistake of the law does not violate the Fourth Amendment. Justice Sotomayor wrote the dissenting opinion and stated that the decision was a further erosion of civil liberties and that mistaken understanding of law should not free the government from liability. 
    Read more: Court Rules for a Mistaken Police Officer (New York Times)
    Read more: Henien v. North Carolina (SCOTUSblog)
  • King v. Burwell has the potential to affect millions of Americans who are receiving subsidies in order to afford their healthcare. The outcome of King will determine if states will be able to provide subsidies for people buying health insurance on a federal exchange. 
    Read more: Supreme Court Could Kick 10 Million People Off Health Insurance (Huffington Post)
  • Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project, Inc. will be looking at a disparate impact claim under the Fair Housing Act. The Inclusive Communities Project brought the claim against the state agency asserting their system of providing tax credits in lower-income black neighborhoods led to neighborhood segregation and had a racially discriminatory impact even if it did not have a discriminatory intent.
    Read more: SCOTUS’s New Race Case: Housing Discrimination (RealClear Policy)

Loretta Lynch Begins Confirmation Hearings
Presidential nominee for U.S. Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, has begun Senate confirmation hearings. In her most recent hearing, Lynch expressed support for President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. Lynch, a U.S. attorney in Brooklyn, New York, would be the first African American woman to be U.S. Attorney General if confirmed.

Read more: Attorney General Nominee Backs Obama’s Immigration Actions (The Hill)
Read more: 5 Things to Watch at AG Nominee’s Hearing (The Hill)
Read more: Loretta Lynch, in Confirmation Hearing, Defends Legality of Obama Immigration Action (New York Times)

What’s Happening on the Hill?

  • House Committee on the Budget, “The President’s Fiscal Year 2016 Budget” Hearing, Feb. 2, 2015
  • House Energy & Commerce Committee, “Examining the U.S. Public Health Response to Seasonal Influenza” Hearing, Feb. 3, 2015
  • House Judiciary Committee, “Examining the Adequacy and Enforcement of Our Nation’s Immigration Laws” Hearing, Feb. 3, 2015
  • House Committee on Ways and Means, Hearing on the President’s Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Proposal with U.S. Department of the Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew, Feb. 3, 2015
  • House Committee on Education & the Workforce, “State of American Schools and Workplaces: Expanding Opportunity in America’s Schools and Workplaces” Hearing, Feb. 4, 2015
  • House Committee on Financial Services, “Exploring Alleged Ethical and Legal Violations at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development” Hearing, Feb. 4, 2015
  • House Committee on Foreign Affairs, “Hearing: Cuba: Assessing the Administration’s Sudden Shift” Hearing, Feb. 4, 2015
  • House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, “Impacts of the Proposed Waters of the United States Rule on State and Local Governments” Hearing, Feb. 4, 2015
  • House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Budget Request for Fiscal Year 2016 Hearing, Feb. 11, 2015
  • Joint Hearing of the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees to receive the Legislative Presentation of the Disabled American Veterans, Feb. 24, 2015
  • Joint Hearing of the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees to receive the Legislative Presentation of The American Legion, Feb. 25, 2015
  • Senate Committee on Armed Services, “Findings of the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission” Hearing, Feb. 3, 2015
  • Senate Committee on Finance, Internal Revenue Service Operations and the President’s Budget for Fiscal Year 2016 Hearing, Feb. 3, 2015
  • Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions, “Fixing No Child Left Behind: Innovation to Better Meet the Needs of Students” Hearing, Feb. 3, 2015
  • Senate Committee on Armed Services, Nomination Hearing of Ashton B. Carter for Secretary of Defense, Feb. 4, 2015
  • Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, “Building a More Secure Cyber Future: Examining Private Sector Experience with the NIST Framework” Hearing, Feb. 4, 2015
  • Senate Committee on Finance, The President’s Budget for Fiscal Year 2016 Hearing, Feb. 4, 2015
  • Senate Committee on Finance, The President’s Budget for Fiscal Year 2016 Hearing, Feb. 5, 2015
  • Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs, “Deferred Action on Immigration: Implications and Unanswered Questions” Hearing, Feb. 4, 2015
  • Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, The Connected World: Examining the Internet of Things” Hearing, Feb. 11. 2015