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 Collection: Congressional Research Service Reports
Health Care: Constitutional Rights and Legislative Powers
The health care reform debate raises many complex issues including those of coverage, accessibility, cost, accountability, and quality of health care. Underlying these policy considerations are issues regarding the status of health care as a constitutional or legal right. This report analyzes constitutional and legal issues pertaining to a right to health care, as well as the power of Congress to enact and fund health care programs. Following the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, P.L. 111-148, legal issues have been raised regarding the power of Congress to mandate that individuals purchase health insurance, and the ability of states to "nullify" or "opt out" of such a requirement. These issues are also discussed.
Economic Development Administration: Reauthorization and Funding Issues in the 112th Congress
The 112th Congress may consider legislation to reauthorize and amend the Public Works and Economic Development Act (PWEDA), whose statutory authority expired on September 30, 2008. As part of those deliberations, Congress may consider a number of changes in the structure of Economic Development Administration (EDA) assistance programs.
Identity Theft: Trends and Issues
In 2010, about 8.1 million Americans were reportedly victims of identity fraud, and the average identity fraud victim incurred a mean of $631 in costs as a result of the fraud—the highest level since 2007. Identity theft is often committed to facilitate other crimes such as credit card fraud, document fraud, or employment fraud, which in turn can affect not only the nation's economy but its security. Consequently, in securing the nation and its economic health, policy makers are also tasked with reducing identity theft and its impact.
International Environmental Financing: The Global Environment Facility (GEF)
This report provides an overview of two of the larger and more recently instituted international financial institutions for the environment-the Climate Investment Funds (CIF)-and analyzes their structure, funding, and objectives in light of the many challenges within the contemporary landscape of global environmental finance.
Afghanistan Casualties: Military Forces and Civilians
This report collects statistics from a variety of sources on casualties sustained during Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), which began on October 7, 2001, and is ongoing. OEF actions take place primarily in Afghanistan; however, OEF casualties also include American casualties in Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Guantanamo Bay (Cuba), Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Jordan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, the Philippines, Seychelles, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkey, and Yemen.
Securing Nuclear Materials: The 2010 Summit and Issues for Congress
The 2010 Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, DC, was part of President Obama's pledge to secure nuclear material around the world by 2013. Nuclear security measures refer to a wide range of actions to prevent theft or diversion of nuclear material or sabotage at an installation or in transit. Congress will continue to decide on funding for the U.S. domestic and international programs focused on nuclear material security and nuclear terrorism prevention. Congress is also likely to assess implementation of the Administration's goal to secure nuclear materials by the end of 2013.
The Proposed Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement: Background and Key Issues
The proposed Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is a new agreement for combating intellectual property rights (IPR) infringement. The ACTA negotiation concluded in October 2010, nearly three years after it began, and negotiating parties released a final text of the agreement in May 2011. Negotiated by the United States, Australia, Canada, the European Union and its 27 member states, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, and Switzerland, the ACTA is intended to build on the IPR protection and enforcement obligations set forth in the 1995 World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement).
Afghanistan Casualties: Military Forces and Civilians
This report collects statistics from a variety of sources on casualties sustained during Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), which began on October 7, 2001, and is ongoing. OEF actions take place primarily in Afghanistan; however, OEF casualties also include American casualties in Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Guantanamo Bay (Cuba), Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Jordan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, the Philippines, Seychelles, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkey, and Yemen.
Vietnam PNTR Status and WTO Accession: Issues and Implications for the United States
Report discussing the role of the United States regarding the status of trade relations with Vietnam after its accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO). The report focuses on the issue of most-favored-nation (MFN) status, or normal trade relations (NTR) which conflicts with Title IV of the Trade Act of 1974. There is an overview of U.S.-Vietnam economic relations the Jackson-Vanik Amendment and Vietnam's NTR status, the WTO accession process in relation to Vietnam's status, the significance of the issues for both Vietnam and the United States, as well as other political and economic issues.
The U.S. Export Control System and the President's Reform Initiative
The 112th Congress may consider reforms of the U.S. export control system. The balance between national security and export competitiveness has made the subject of export controls controversial for decades. The U.S. export control system is diffused among several different licensing and enforcement agencies. This report not only discussed the background of such issues, but also the differences between the Obama Administration and Congress' approaches to export legislation reform.
Sovereign Debt in Advanced Economies: Overview and Issues for Congress
Sovereign debt, also called public debt or government debt, refers to debt incurred by governments. Since the global financial crisis of 2008-2009, public debt in advanced economies has increased substantially. A number of factors related to the financial crisis have fueled the increase, including fiscal stimulus packages, the nationalization of private-sector debt, and lower tax revenue. Even if economic growth reverses some of these trends, such as by boosting tax receipts and reducing spending on government programs, aging populations in advanced economies are expected to strain government debt levels in coming years.
Pakistan-U.S. Relations
In a security alliance since 2004 and "strategic partners" since 2006, the United States and Pakistan for decades experienced major shifts in the nature and tone of their relations. In the post- 9/11 period, assisting in the creation of a more stable, democratic, and prosperous Pakistan actively combating religious militancy has been among the most important U.S. foreign policy efforts. Pakistan is among the leading recipients of U.S. aid in the post-9/11 period, having been appropriated about $24 billion in assistance and military reimbursements since 2001. FY2013 legislation in the 112th Congress would cut U.S. assistance funding significantly from both the levels requested by the Administration and from those Congress approved for FY2012. Provisions also would introduce more rigorous restrictions and certification requirements on such aid. With anti-American sentiments and xenophobic conspiracy theories rife among ordinary Pakistanis, persistent economic travails and a precarious political setting combine to present serious challenges to U.S. decision makers.
A Securities Transactions Tax: Brief Analytic Overview with Revenue Estimates
This report briefly discusses recent STT (Securities Transactions Tax) proposals, summarizes the possible effects on financial market volatility and speculation, and provides estimates of the potential revenue effects.
Dispute Settlement in the U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA)
A look at the U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA), including its background and, most specifically, steps taken when disputes occur.
Russia's Accession to the WTO and Its Implications for the United States
Russia has been invited to join the World Trade Organization (WTO) by July 23, 2012. This report looks at policy issues for Congress, and concerns for the US regarding conditions ensuring that Russia fulfills its obligations and provides meaningful trade and investment opportunities for U.S. firms.
Energy and Water Development: FY2012 Appropriations
This report discusses the FY2012 budget for energy and water development as approved by Congress, including what the funding will be used for.
Pakistan: U.S. Foreign Aid Conditions, Restrictions, and Reporting Requirements
This report provides a comprehensive list of existing laws and pending legislation containing conditions, limitations, and reporting requirements for U.S. foreign assistance to Pakistan. It will track the debate on this topic and resulting changes.
The Interplay of Borders, Turf, Cyberspace, and Jurisdiction: Issues Confronting U.S. Law Enforcement
Globalization and technological innovation have fostered the expansion of both legitimate and criminal operations across physical borders as well as throughout cyberspace. U.S. law enforcement has increasingly relied on intelligence-led policing, enhanced interagency cooperation, and technological implementation to confront 21st century crime. Issues for Congress are how it can leverage its legislative and oversight roles to bolster U.S. law enforcement's abilities to confront modern-day crime. It may also examine whether federal law enforcement is utilizing existing mechanisms to effectively coordinate investigations and share information.
The Global Climate Change Initiative (GCCI): Budget Authority and Request, FY2010-FY2013
The United States supports international financial assistance for global climate change initiatives in developing countries. The Global Climate Change Initiative (GCCI) aims to integrate climate change considerations into U.S. foreign assistance through a full range of bilateral, multilateral, and private sector mechanisms to foster low-carbon growth, promote sustainable and climate-resilient societies, and reduce emissions from deforestation and land degradation. The GCCI is implemented through programs at three "core" agencies—the Department of State, the Department of the Treasury, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)—and is funded through the Administration's Executive Budget, Function 150 account, for State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs. As Congress considers potential authorizations and/or appropriations for activities administered through the GCCI, it may have questions concerning U.S. agency initiatives and current bilateral and multilateral programs that address global climate change.
Iraq: Politics, Governance, and Human Rights
The view of the Administration and others is that Iraqi factions, with U.S. and other help, will be able to work through the severe political disputes and ongoing violence, and will also be willing and able to resist increased Iranian influence in Iraq. The Administration states that U.S. training will continue using programs for Iraq similar to those with other countries in which there is no U.S. troop presence, and about 15,000 U.S. personnel, including contractors, remain in Iraq under State Department authority to exert U.S. influence. Continuing the security relationship in the absence of U.S. troops in Iraq, and developing the civilian bilateral relationship, was the focus of the U.S. visit of Prime Minister Maliki on December 12, 2011.
Government Procurement in Times of Fiscal Uncertainty
When confronted with actual or potential funding gaps, funding shortfalls, or budget cuts, the federal government has a number of options as to prospective and existing procurement contracts. Many of these options arise from contract law and, in particular, certain standard clauses included in federal procurement contracts. Among other things, these clauses allow the government to (1) unilaterally change certain terms of the contract, such as the specifications or the method and manner of performing the work; (2) delay, suspend, or "stop work" on the contract; and (3) terminate the contract for the government's convenience. However, courts have also found that the government has certain rights because it is the government, regardless of whether the contract provides for these rights. Such rights are commonly described as "inherent rights," and include the right to terminate the contract for convenience and, according to one tribunal, the right to suspend work.
Hydraulic Fracturing: Chemical Disclosure Requirements
This report provides an overview of current and proposed laws at the state and federal levels that require the disclosure of the chemicals added to the fluid used in hydraulic fracturing.
The Strategic Petroleum Reserve: Authorization, Operation, and Drawdown Policy
This report looks at the history, purpose, and current status of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
Immigration Provisions of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)
This report describes how the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) provisions work in practice. It discusses improvements suggested by immigration attorneys and law enforcement observers to increase the utilization of VAWA provisions by abused foreign nationals as well as ways to reduce immigration fraud. The report closes with possible immigration-related issues that Congress may choose to consider should it reauthorize VAWA.
Offsets, Supplemental Appropriations, and the Disaster Relief Fund: FY1990-FY2012
This report discusses the recent history of offsetting rescissions in paying for supplemental appropriations to the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Disaster Relief Fund (DRF).
Tribal Criminal Jurisdiction over Non-Indians in the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Reauthorization and the SAVE Native Women Act
A report looking at incidences of violence against women of American Indian ethnicity in relation to legal jurisdiction. American Indians experience violent crimes at a rate much higher than the general population. This trend carries over to domestic violence: American Indian women experience domestic and dating violence at more than twice the rate of non-Indian women. Most of this violence involves an offender of a different race. This fact creates a jurisdictional problem because tribal courts do not have criminal jurisdiction over crimes committed within the tribe's jurisdiction by non-Indians.
U.S. Oil Imports and Exports
Oil import and export developments pose a host of policy issues. Concerns about import dependence continue to generate interest in policy options to directly discourage imports or to reduce the need for imports by increasing domestic supply and decreasing demand. Rising exports at a time of rising prices has led to calls for policies to restrict such trade. The debate around the Keystone XL pipeline involves concerns about imports, exports, and the environment. The rising cost for fuels has led to calls for release of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, meant to provide a short term policy option in case of supply disruptions. Policy options may entail various economic, fiscal, and environmental trade-offs.
The Budget Control Act of 2011: The Effects on Spending and the Budget Deficit When the Automatic Spending Cuts Are Implemented
Following a lengthy debate over raising the debt limit, the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA; P.L. 112-25) was signed into law by President Obama on August 2, 2011. To provide context for this debate, this report discusses the effects of the BCA on spending and the deficit, assuming that the January 2013 automatic spending reductions proceed as scheduled.
An Analysis of STEM Education Funding at the NSF: Trends and Policy Discussion
This report analyzes National Science Foundation funding trends and selected closely related STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education policy issues in order to place conversations about FY2013 funding in broader fiscal and policy context. It concludes with an analysis of potential policy options.
Defining Homeland Security: Analysis and Congressional Considerations
This report discusses the evolution of national and DHS-specific homeland security strategic documents and their homeland security definitions and missions, and analyzes the policy question of how varied homeland security definitions and missions may affect the development of national homeland security strategy. This report, however, does not examine Department of Homeland Security implementation of strategy.
Congressional Liaison Offices of Selected Federal Agencies
This list of about 150 congressional liaison offices is intended to help congressional offices in placing telephone calls and addressing correspondence to government agencies. Entries are arranged alphabetically in four sections: legislative branch; judicial branch; executive branch; and agencies, boards, and commissions.
U.S. National Science Foundation: An Overview
The National Science Foundation (NSF) was created by the National Science Foundation Act of 1950, as amended (P.L. 81-507). The NSF has the broad mission of supporting science and engineering in general and funding basic research across many disciplines. The agency provides support for investigator-initiated, merit-reviewed, competitively selected awards, state-of-the-art tools, and instrumentation and facilities.
Issues in International Trade Law: Restricting Exports of Electronic Waste
Electronic waste (e-waste) is a term that loosely refers to obsolete, broken, or irreparable electronic devices. Because e-waste is generated in high volumes in the United States and contains hazardous materials, it is a growing area of domestic concern. Currently, e-waste is essentially unregulated at the federal level and can be disposed of with common household garbage in municipal solid waste landfills or incinerators. Recently, momentum has developed for domestic legislation restricting U.S. e-waste exports. These restrictions could take many forms, including a partial or total ban on e-waste exports, an e-waste export licensing system, or a quota on e-waste exports. This report looks at how such legislation could affect and work with prior US disposal laws.
Latin America and the Caribbean: U.S. Policy and Key Issues for Congress in 2012
This report provides an overview of U.S. policy toward Latin America and the Caribbean, including the Obama Administration's priorities for U.S. policy and a brief comparison of policies under the Obama and Bush Administrations. It then examines congressional interest in Latin America, first providing an overview, and then looking at selected countries and regional issues and identifying key policy issues facing Congress in 2012. The final section of the report analyzes several upcoming events in the region in 2012 that could have an impact on developments in several countries or on U.S. relations with the region.
The Project BioShield Act: Issues for the 112th Congress
This report discusses the Project BioShield Act (P.L. 108-276), In 2004, passed by Congress to encourage the private sector to develop medical countermeasures against chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) terrorism agents and to provide a novel mechanism for federal acquisition of those newly developed countermeasures. This law provides three main authorities: (1) relaxing regulatory requirements for some CBRN terrorism-related spending, including hiring personnel and awarding research grants; (2) guaranteeing a federal market for new CBRN medical countermeasures; and (3) permitting emergency use of unapproved countermeasures.
FY2013 Budget Documents: Internet and GPO Availability
This report provides brief descriptions of the budget volumes and related documents, together with Internet addresses, Government Printing Office (GPO) stock numbers, and prices for obtaining print copies of these publications. It also explains how to find the locations of government depository libraries, which can provide both printed copies for reference use and Internet access to the online versions.
The Role of Local Food Systems in U.S. Farm Policy
This report looks at the growing popularity of locally produced foods, and how that popularity and regional/local food systems are affected by the reauthorization of the 2008 farm bill.
U.S. Defense Articles and Services Supplied to Foreign Recipients: Restrictions on Their Use
In accordance with United States law, the U.S. Government places conditions on the use of defense articles and defense services transferred by it to foreign recipients. Violation of these conditions can lead to the suspension of deliveries or termination of the contracts for such defense items, among other things. This report covers the details and meanings of these reports.
Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: Highlighted Activities
A look at legislative reforms that have been passed and are in process in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on April 20, 2010.
Federal Contracting and Subcontracting with Small Businesses: Issues in the 112th Congress
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. 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 Eurozone Crisis: Overview and Issues for Congress
The Eurozone's economic crisis threatens economic stability in Europe and beyond. Four specific economic challenges faced are high debt levels and public deficits, weaknesses in the European banking system, recession and high unemployment in some Eurozone countries, and persistent trade imbalances. Three issues for Congress regarding these challenges are how this situation will impact the US economy, IMG involvement, and how the US and Europe will cooperate to solve these issues.
The Federal Budget: Issues for FY2013 and Beyond
The federal budget is central to Congress's ability to exercise its "power of the purse." Over the last several fiscal years the imbalance between spending and revenues has grown as a result of the economic downturn and policies enacted in response to financial turmoil. This report discusses how a growing budget deficit will affect the FY2013 budget and government spending.
U.S. Strategic Nuclear Forces: Background, Developments, and Issues
During discussions about the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review, Congress reviewed and discussed the plans for maintaining and modernizing U.S. strategic nuclear forces. Although the United States plans to reduce the number of warheads deployed on its long-range missiles and bombers, consistent with the terms of the New START Treaty, it also plans to develop new delivery systems for deployment over the next 20-30 years. As a result, the 112th Congress will continue to review these programs during the annual authorization and appropriations process.
Brazil-U.S. Relations
This report analyzes Brazil's political, economic, and social conditions, and how those conditions affect its role in the world and its relationship with the United States.
Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response: The SAFER Grant Program
This report discusses the adequate staffing for Fire and Emergency Response. It describes the SAFER Act, which was enacted by the 108th Congress as Section 1057 of the FY2004 National Defense Authorization Act (P.L. 108-136). The Department of Defense and Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011 (P.L. 112-10) funded SAFER at $405 million.
Unauthorized Alien Students: Issues and "DREAM Act" Legislation
The 109th and 110th Congresses considered, but did not enact, comprehensive immigration reform legislation that included large-scale legalization programs for unauthorized aliens. In the aftermath of these unsuccessful efforts, some interested parties have urged the President and Congress to pursue more limited legislation to address the status of unauthorized alien students. Such legislation is commonly referred to as the "DREAM Act."
U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel
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.
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR): A Primer for the 112th Congress
In the ongoing energy debate in Congress, one issue has been whether to approve energy development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR or Refuge) in northeastern Alaska or whether to continue to prohibit development to protect the area's biological, recreational, and subsistence values. ANWR is rich in fauna, flora, and oil and natural gas potential. Its development has been debated for more than 50 years, but sharp increases in energy prices from late 2000 to early 2001, in 2004-2008, and in 2011 from a variety of causes (e.g., terrorist attacks, oil spills, and energy infrastructure damage from hurricanes), have repeatedly intensified the debate. This primer provides background for analyzing the various claims through an examination of its history, and an analysis of its geological, biological, human, and economic resources.
Israel: Background and U.S. Relations
A look at the history of U.S.-Israeli relationships and current Israeli issues such as border security, defense, Israel-Palestinian conflicts, economy, and democracy.
Globalization, Worker Insecurity, and Policy Approaches
Today's global economy, or what many call globalization, has a growing impact on the economic futures of American companies, workers, and families. The current wave of globalization is supported by three broad trends: technology, increase in world supply of labor, and reduced government policies to international trade and investment.