CRS — Security Assistance Reform: “Section 1206″ Background and Issues for Congress

April 22, 2014 Comments off

Security Assistance Reform: “Section 1206″ Background and Issues for Congress (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Section 1206 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2006, as amended and regularly extended, provides the Secretary of Defense with authority to train and equip foreign military forces for two specified purposes—counterterrorism and stability operations—and foreign security forces for counterterrorism operations. Section 1206 authority now extends through FY2017.

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CRS — U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel

April 22, 2014 Comments off

U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

This report provides an overview of U.S. foreign assistance to Israel. It includes a review of past aid programs, data on annual assistance, and an analysis of current issues. For general information on Israel, see CRS Report RL33476, Israel: Background and U.S. Relations, by Jim Zanotti.

CRS — The Federal Budget: Overview and Issues for FY2015 and Beyond

April 22, 2014 Comments off

The Federal Budget: Overview and Issues for FY2015 and Beyond (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The federal budget is central to Congress’s ability to exercise its “power of the purse.” Each fiscal year Congress and the President undertake a variety of steps intended to set levels of spending and revenue and to make policy decisions. The purpose of this report is to provide an overview and background on the current budget debate. This report will track legislative events related to the federal budget and will be updated as budgetary legislation moves through Congress.

CRS — What Is the Farm Bill? (updated)

April 22, 2014 Comments off

What Is the Farm Bill? (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The farm bill is an omnibus, multi-year piece of authorizing legislation that governs an array of agricultural and food programs. Titles in the most recent farm bill encompassed farm commodity price and income supports, farm credit, trade, agricultural conservation, research, rural development, bioenergy, foreign food aid, and domestic nutrition assistance. Although agricultural policies sometimes are created and changed by freestanding legislation or as part of other major laws, the farm bill provides a predictable opportunity for policy makers to comprehensively and periodically address agricultural and food issues. The farm bill is renewed about every five years.

CRS — Campaign Contribution Limits: Selected Questions About McCutcheon and Policy Issues for Congress

April 22, 2014 Comments off

Campaign Contribution Limits: Selected Questions About McCutcheon and Policy Issues for Congress (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Recently invalidated aggregate limits on federal campaign contributions capped the total amount that one can give to all candidates, parties, or political action committees (PACs). For the 2014 election cycle, the aggregate limit for individual contributions was $123,200.The Supreme Court of the United States struck down the aggregate limits on April 2, 2014. Alabama contributor Shaun McCutcheon and the Republican National Committee (RNC) brought the case, McCutcheon v. FEC, after the aggregate limits prevented McCutcheon from contributing as desired to federal candidates and parties during the 2012 election cycle. The decision does not affect “base limits” that individuals may contribute to particular candidates or parties. Instead, McCutcheon permits individuals to give limited contributions to an unlimited number of candidates, political parties, and political action committees.

This report offers a preliminary analysis of major policy issues and potential implications that appear to be most relevant as the House and Senate decide whether or how to respond to McCutcheon. With the aggregate limits relaxed, additional funds might flow to candidate committees, party committees, or PACs. Joint fundraising committees and leadership PACs might expand as tools to funnel large contributions to multiple candidate committees, parties, or PACs. Disclosure of contributors who exceed the current aggregate limits might also be a policy concern. It is important to note that whether these possibilities will occur is unclear at this time.

This report will be updated to reflect major developments. This version of the report supersedes previous versions.

CRS — Retirement Benefits for Members of Congress (updated)

April 22, 2014 Comments off

Retirement Benefits for Members of Congress (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Prior to 1984, neither federal civil service employees nor Members of Congress paid Social Security taxes, nor were they eligible for Social Security benefits. Members of Congress and other federal employees were instead covered by a separate pension plan called the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS). The 1983 amendments to the Social Security Act (P.L. 98-21) required federal employees first hired after 1983 to participate in Social Security. These amendments also required all Members of Congress to participate in Social Security as of January 1, 1984, regardless of when they first entered Congress. Because CSRS was not designed to coordinate with Social Security, Congress directed the development of a new retirement plan for federal workers. The result was the Federal Employees’ Retirement System Act of 1986 (P.L. 99- 335).

Congressional pensions, like those of other federal employees, are financed through a combination of employee and employer contributions. All Members pay Social Security payroll taxes equal to 6.2% of the Social Security taxable wage base ($117,000 in 2014). Members first covered by FERS prior to 2013 also pay 1.3% of full salary to the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund (CSRDF). Members of Congress first covered by FERS in 2013 contribute 3.1% of pay to the CSRDF. Members of Congress first covered by FERS after 2013 contribute 4.4% of pay to the CSRDF. In 2014, Members covered by CSRS Offset pay 1.8% of the first $117,000 of salary, and 8.0% of salary above this amount, into the CSRDF.

CRS — Former Presidents: Pensions, Office Allowances, and Other Federal Benefits

April 22, 2014 Comments off

Former Presidents: Pensions, Office Allowances, and Other Federal Benefits (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The Former Presidents Act (FPA; 3 U.S.C. §102 note) charges the General Services Administration (GSA) with providing former Presidents a pension, support staff, office support, travel funds, and mailing privileges. The FPA was enacted to “maintain the dignity” of the Office of the President. The act provides the former President—and his or her spouse—certain benefits to help him respond to post-presidency mail and speaking requests, among other informal public duties often required of a former President. Prior to enactment of the FPA in 1958, former Presidents leaving office received no pension or other federal assistance.

Former Presidents currently receive a pension that is equal to pay for Cabinet Secretaries (Executive Level I), which was $199,700 in calendar year 2013. Executive Level I pay is set at $201,700 for calendar year 2014. In addition to benefits provided pursuant to the FPA, former Presidents are also provided Secret Service protection and financial “transition” benefits to assist their transition to post-presidential life. Pursuant to the FPA, former Presidents are eligible for benefits unless they hold “an appointive or elective office or position in or under the Federal Government or the government of the District of Columbia to which is attached a rate of pay other than a nominal rate.”

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