House Watch – March 7, 2023
Good morning and welcome to the latest edition of House Watch, where FreedomWorks informs activists and partners on upcoming House votes.
The House is in session this week and will be in recess next week. The House will consider bills addressing benefits that veterans have earned, repealing the Biden Waters of the U.S. rule, requiring a report be made public on the origins of COVID-19, and preventing federal employees from censoring private citizens.
FreedomWorks is also proud to announce our House Watch webpage– a tool that allows our activists and allies to track how members of the House vote on every bill and will give them a better understanding of how exactly members vote and compare those actions to their words. You can find House Watch here.
Legislation that may be considered under suspension of the rules
H.R. 502: To Amend Title 38, United States Code, To Ensure That The Secretary Of Veterans Affairs Repays Members Of The Armed Forces For Certain Contributions Made By Such Members Towards Post-9/11 Educational Assistance, And For Other Purposes, As Amended (Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN-03)/ Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Committee on the Budget)
Background: Veterans are currently able to select between the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) and the Post-9/11 GI bill, which both pay for post-service education. The MGIB specifically requires a monthly fee of $100 for the first 12 months of active duty, which is then refunded as an attachment to veteran housing stipends. Active-duty servicemembers who exhaust their MGIB benefits before transitioning to veteran status are cheated out of their $1,200 because current law ties the refund payment to the final Post-9/11 GI Bill monthly stipend payment, which they cannot receive if their benefits were used up while on active duty. Department of Defense statistics from 2017 show that 70% of new servicemembers still pay $1,200 to keep their MGIB eligibility even though a significant majority later opt to use the free and more robust Post-9/11 GI Bill.
This bill would amend title 38 of U.S. code to ensure that the Secretary of Veterans Affairs repays armed forces members for their contributions to Post-9/11 Educational Assistance.
Relevant Info: This bill passed the House last Congress via a voice vote.
H.R. 815: RELIEVE Act (Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA-05)/ Committee on Veterans’ Affairs)
Background: Under current law, a veteran could be actively enrolled in care, on the way to their first appointment with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), get into a car accident, and be held personally liable for all their medical bills.
This bill would amend title 38 of the U.S. Code by inserting language stating that a veteran would not be required to show a prior receipt of care in the period before the 60-day period of being enrolled in health care coverage in order to be reimbursed by the VA for an emergency procedure.
H.R. 753: VA COST SAVINGS Enhancements Act (Rep. Mike Bost (R-IL-12)/ Committee on Veterans’ Affairs)
Background: Currently, VA hospitals and facilities store medical waste and enter into contracts to have it hauled off and properly disposed of.
This bill would require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to identify VA facilities that would benefit from cost savings associated with the use of an on-site regulated medical waste treatment system over a five-year period. The bill would not appropriate any additional funds to the department in order to implement the bill.
H.R. 1123: Understanding Cyber-Security Of Mobile Networks Act (Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA-18)/ Committee on Energy and Commerce)
Background: As of 2022, nearly 60% of Americans had a smartphone. To better protect consumers’ data and privacy, Congress is trying to understand smartphone network vulnerabilities better.
This bill would require the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to examine and report on the cybersecurity of mobile service networks and the vulnerability of these networks and mobile devices to cyberattacks and surveillance conducted by adversaries. The report shall include (1) an assessment of the degree to which providers of mobile service have addressed certain cybersecurity vulnerabilities; (2) a discussion of the degree to which these providers have implemented cybersecurity best practices and risk assessment frameworks; and (3) an estimate of the prevalence and efficacy of encryption and authentication algorithms and techniques used in mobile service and communications equipment, mobile devices, and mobile operating systems and software.
Relevant Info: This bill passed the House last Congress by a vote of 404-19.
H.R. 1226: Wounded Warrior Access Act (Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-CA-33)/ Committee on Veterans’ Affairs)
Background: The VA is currently trying to implement a digital records system at its hospitals nationwide, but it has been delayed consistently. The project has cost $16 billion so far.
This bill would require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to create a website or online tool that would allow a veteran or a representative of a veteran to request access to their records. The bill would require the website to confirm such requests within ten days and require the Department to send the requested documents within 120 days of receiving the request. The online tool must be available no later than one year after the bill is enacted. The bill would also not appropriate any additional funds to the department in order to implement this bill.
Legislation that may be considered pursuant to a rule
H.J. Res 27: Providing For Congressional Disapproval Under Chapter 8 Of Title 5, United States Code, Of The Rule Submitted By The Department Of The Army, Corps Of Engineers, Department Of Defense And The Environmental Protection Agency Relating To ‘‘revised Definition Of ‘waters Of The United States’ ’’ (Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO-06)/ Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure)
Background: This resolution would state that Congress disapproves of the rule submitted by the Department of the Army, the Corps of Engineers, the Department of Defense, and the Environmental Protection Agency relating to the rule ‘‘Revised Definition of ‘Waters of the United States” and that rule shall not go into effect.
For more information, please see the committee report.
FW View: FreedomWorks supports this resolution.
S. 619: COVID-19 Origin Act of 2023 (Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO)/ Intelligence Committee)
Background: This bill would require the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to declassify all information relating to potential links between the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the origin of COVID-19, including activities performed by the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA); coronavirus or other related activities performed at the Wuhan Institute of Virology; and researchers at the institute who fell ill in 2019. The bill requires the DNI to submit an unclassified report to Congress that contains all of the above information while only redacting information that would protect sources and methods.
Relevant Info: The Senate unanimously passed this bill last week.
H.R. 140: Protecting Speech from Government Interference Act (Rep. James Comer (R-KY-02)/ Committee on Oversight and Accountability)
Background: This bill would bar federal employees from using their authority to censor any private entity, including while they are outside of normal working hours and away from their normal office. Certain legitimate law enforcement actions where censorship is needed, like child pornography cases, would be allowed by the bill.
FW View: FreedomWorks supports this bill.
Legislation That May Be Considered
H. Con. Res. 21: Directing The President, Pursuant To Section 5(c) Of The War Powers Resolution, To Remove The United States Armed Forces From Syria (Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL-01) / Committee on Foreign Affairs)
Background: The U.S. has had military personnel in Syria since 2015, when U.S. troops were sent to help train allies in the region to confront ISIS.
This resolution would direct President Biden to remove U.S. Armed Forces from Syria no later than 180 days after the adoption of the resolution.
FW View: FreedomWorks supports this resolution.
Key vote YES
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