Legislative Activity

Next Steps Uncertain for Terrorism Risk Insurance Bill

On July 17, the Senate passed the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (S. 2244) by a bipartisan margin of 93-4. This bill, introduced by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), would extend the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA) to December 31, 2021; TRIA is currently set to expire on December 31, 2014. In the House, new House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) indicated that the bill could see floor action before the August recess. However, House Financial Services Committee Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) has indicated that House Republicans remain divided on whether to reduce the scope and funding of the TRIA program. For example, Rep. Peter King (R-NY) has stated that more than 30 House Republicans planned to join Democrats in opposing Chairman Hensarling’s preferred TRIA legislation, the TRIA Reform Act of 2014 (H.R. 4871).

House and Senate Announce Border Proposals

Last week, the Obama administration submitted a $3.5 billion request to Congress for an emergency supplemental appropriation to combat the crisis of unaccompanied minors from Central America crossing the U.S. southwestern border. The House, led by House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers (R-AL) and Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX) announced a $1.5 billion plan, which would authorize National Guard deployments to the border to free up more Customs and Border Protection resources. It also recommends changing a George W. Bush-era law that guarantees minors a court hearing in an effort to combat trafficking. Due to the serious immigration court backlogs, these minors end up staying in the U.S. for years.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) announced a $3.5 billion plan, which does not seek to change the trafficking law because many Senate Democrats – including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) – believe that “exceptional circumstances” provisions allow President Obama to exercise executive discretion without asking Congress to introduce new legislation. The bill includes $2.7 billion to address unaccompanied minors – including $1.1 billion for the Department of Homeland Security – $615 million to combat wildfires, and $225 million to assist Israel in procuring more Iron Dome missile defense systems.

Upcoming Hearings

  • Tuesday, July 29: The House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation Security will hold a hearing titled “Examining TSA’s [Transportation Security Administration] Management of the Screening Partnership Program.”
  • Tuesday, July 29: The House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection and Security Technologies will hold a hearing titled “Protecting the Homeland from Nuclear and Radiological Threats.”
  • Tuesday, July 29: The House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing titled “Oversight of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.”
  • Wednesday July 30: The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a markup on pending homeland security-related bills.
  • Thursday, July 31: The House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Oversight and Subcommittee on Research and Technology will hold a joint hearing titled “Technology Needed to Secure America’s Border.”

Executive Branch Activity

GAO Releases Report on High-Containment Laboratory Security

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a critical report titled, “High-Containment Laboratories: Recent Incidents in Biosafety Lapses.” In this report, GAO found, “No federal entity is responsible for strategic planning and oversight of high-containment laboratories.” It discovered that, as the number of high-containment laboratories has risen, the expansion of high-containment laboratories was not based on a government-wide coordinated strategy. Instead, GAO reported that individual agencies oversaw their own oversight capacity, individual high-containment laboratory activities, and congressional funding. Therefore, these laboratories lack an overall research agenda, security protocols, and reporting mechanisms. GAO has repeatedly called for a national needs assessment, strategic plan, and coordinated oversight, but concluded that it “has not been able to find any detailed projections based on a government-wide strategic evaluation of research requirements based on public health or national security needs.”