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CRS — Senate Unanimous Consent Agreements: Potential Effects on the Amendment Process (August 15, 2014)

August 25, 2014 Comments off

Senate Unanimous Consent Agreements: Potential Effects on the Amendment Process (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The Senate frequently enters into unanimous consent agreements (also called “UC agreements”) that establish procedure on a bill that the Senate is considering or soon will consider. There are few restrictions on what these agreements can provide, and once agreed to, they can be altered only by a further unanimous consent action. In recent practice, the Senate often begins by adopting a general UC agreement, then adds elements in piecemeal fashion as debate continues. UC agreements often contain provisions affecting the floor amending process, most often in one or more of the ways detailed below.

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CRS — The Legislative Process on the Senate Floor: An Introduction (August 13, 2014)

August 18, 2014 Comments off

The Legislative Process on the Senate Floor: An Introduction (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The standing rules of the Senate promote deliberation by permitting Senators to debate at length and by precluding a simple majority from ending debate when they are prepared to vote to approve a bill. This right of extended debate permits filibusters that can be brought to an end if the Senate invokes cloture, usually by a vote of three-fifths of all Senators. Even then, consideration can typically continue under cloture for an additional 30 hours. The possibility of filibusters encourages the Senate to seek consensus whenever possible and to conduct business under the terms of unanimous consent agreements that limit the time available for debate and amending.

Report: Women Business Owners Face Gap in Lending, Federal Contracts

August 15, 2014 Comments off

Report: Women Business Owners Face Gap in Lending, Federal Contracts
Source: U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship

Women-owned businesses are a $3 trillion economic force and support 23 million jobs but still face significant barriers compared to their male-owned counterparts when it comes to obtaining loans and growing their businesses, according to a report released today by U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

Women entrepreneurs account for just $1 out of every $23 in small business lending, despite representing 30 percent of all small companies. Women also are more likely to be turned down for loans or receive less favorable terms than men, according to the report.

Transparency — Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) on Lack of Access Concerns from Inspectors General

August 13, 2014 Comments off

Grassley on Lack of Access Concerns from Inspectors General
Source: Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA)

Sen. Chuck Grassley, Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee, is a long-time advocate for independent agency inspectors general. Grassley has been concerned by problems inspectors generals have had accessing necessary information from their agencies. For example, the Peace Corps inspector general was stonewalled simply trying to get access to records to ensure the agency was acting in accordance with the law in addressing sexual abuse cases. Grassley sent three letters to the agency explaining the law and ultimately held up the nomination of the director before a temporary solution was found. The Justice Department inspector general in 2009 suddenly ran into problems getting access to material previously received from the FBI. Grassley pressed the FBI Director for answers to this abrupt change in position during an oversight hearing on May 21, 2014. The Justice Department responded to an April 2 letter on June 24 to try to justify its position. The dispute continues.

Grassley was copied on a letter today to congressional committees of jurisdiction from 47 inspectors general expressing concern about agency refusal to provide access to critical agency records. The inspectors general cite the Department of Justice, the Chemical Safety Board and the Peace Corps as examples.

Report: Women Business Owners Face Gap in Lending, Federal Contracts

August 11, 2014 Comments off

Report: Women Business Owners Face Gap in Lending, Federal Contracts
Source: U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship

Women-owned businesses are a $3 trillion economic force and support 23 million jobs but still face significant barriers compared to their male-owned counterparts when it comes to obtaining loans and growing their businesses, according to a report released today by U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

Women entrepreneurs account for just $1 out of every $23 in small business lending, despite representing 30 percent of all small companies. Women also are more likely to be turned down for loans or receive less favorable terms than men, according to the report.

Abuse of Structured Financial Products: Misusing Basket Options to Avoid Taxes and Leverage Limits (hearing and report)

July 24, 2014 Comments off

Abuse of Structured Financial Products: Misusing Basket Options to Avoid Taxes and Leverage Limits
Source: Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations

The Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations has scheduled a hearing, “Abuse of Structured Financial Products: Misusing Basket Options to Avoid Taxes and Leverage Limits,” on Tuesday, July 22, 2014, at 9:30 a.m., in Room 216 of the Hart Senate Office Building.

The Subcommittee hearing will examine a set of transactions that utilize financial engineering and structured financial products to attempt to avoid paying U.S. taxes on short-term capital gains. Witnesses will include representatives of major financial institutions, as well as tax experts from a nonprofit institution and the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

McCaskill: Campus Sexual Assault Survey Results a ‘wakeup call’ for Schools

July 11, 2014 Comments off

McCaskill: Campus Sexual Assault Survey Results a ‘wakeup call’ for Schools
Source: Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO)

U.S. Senator and former sex crimes prosecutor Claire McCaskill today released the results of a first-of-its-kind national survey on campus sexual assaults—results McCaskill said must serve as a “wakeup call” to the nation’s institutions of higher learning.

The massive survey of schools demonstrates a disturbing failure by many institutions to comply with the law and with best practices in how they handle sexual violence against students—failures which affect nearly every stage of the institutions’ responses to sexual violence.

Among the findings in McCaskill’s survey:

  • Investigations: Federal law requires every institution that knows or reasonably should have known about an alleged sexual assault to conduct an investigation. But 41 percent of schools surveyed have not conducted a single investigation in the past five years. More than 21 percent of the nation’s largest private institutions conducted fewer investigations than the number of incidents they reported to the Department of Education, with some institutions reporting as many as seven times more incidents of sexual violence than they have investigated.
  • Training: 21 percent of institutions surveyed provide no sexual assault response training at all for members of their faculty and staff. 31 percent of schools do not provide any sexual assault training for students.
  • Title IX coordinator: Colleges and universities are required to assign a staff or faculty member as a Title IX coordinator, with responsibility for coordinating the institution’s compliance efforts, including investigations of sexual harassment and sexual violence, but more than 10 percent of institutions surveyed do not have a Title IX coordinator.
  • Adjudication: Federal law requires institutions that receive claims of sexual assault to conduct an adjudication process to determine whether an assault occurred and, if it did, to reach a determination. But:
  • 33 percent of schools failed to provide basic training to the people adjudicating claims.
  • 43 percent of the nation’s largest public schools let students help adjudicate cases.
  • 22 percent of institutions give athletic departments oversight of cases involving athletes.
  • Climate surveys: Confidential climate surveys of students are one of the best ways to get an accurate portrait of assaults on a campus, but only 16 percent of schools conduct climate surveys.
  • Coordination with law enforcement: Law enforcement officials at 30 percent of institutions receive no training on how to respond to reports of sexual violence, and 73 percent of institutions have no protocols on how the institution & law enforcement work together to respond to such violence.
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