Legislative Activity

Congress Reacts to President Obama’s Gun Control Proposals

Shortly before departing Washington for the holidays, President Obama pledged a focus on gun safety in 2016, suggesting he may even act through his own Executive authority.  Last week, the White House unveiled a series of such gun control plans aimed at tightening existing laws.  These actions include:

  • Proposed funding for 200 new agents and investigators at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in the next fiscal year;
  • $500 million to increase access to mental health care; and
  • Directing the Departments of Defense, Justice, and Homeland Security to conduct or sponsor gun violence research, including research into gun safety technology.

Lawmakers were quick to respond, with Democrats largely backing the President and Republicans expressing concerns.  House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) issued separate statements promising Congressional oversight over any Executive actions.  Rep. John Culberson (R-TX), Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, wrote a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch pledging to protect the Second Amendment through “Congress’ power of the purse” and promising that his subcommittee would not provide funds to her agency to implement the President’s announced plans.  His Senate counterpart, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), announced that he too would work to reverse the President’s actions.  While Senator Shelby did not similarly promise to use FY 2017 spending bills to block the President’s proposals, this issue will most certainly be raised during the upcoming appropriations debate.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • Tuesday, January 12: The House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection, and Security Technologies and the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Information Technology will hold a joint hearing titled “Wassenaar: Cybersecurity and Export Control.”
  • Tuesday, January 12: The House Judiciary Committee will hold a markup of various pieces of legislation.

Executive Branch Activity

TSA to Reject Noncompliant Driver’s Licenses Beginning in 2018

On Friday, January 8, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that effective January 22, 2018, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) would no longer accept any state-issued driver’s license that does not meet the requirements of the REAL ID Act as identification for boarding commercial domestic flights.  Passed by Congress in 2005, the law requires state-issued identification meet certain minimum requirements for acceptance by Federal agencies for official purposes.  If states have not met the REAL ID Act’s requirements by the 2018 deadline (or have not otherwise received an extension from DHS), passengers with licenses issued by that state will need to show alternate identification for domestic air travel.