Congress at Work: Federal Budget Allocated, Low-Income Veterans Protected, and Rural Phone Services to Meet Quality Standards

The Congress at Work series of articles is designed to give you a glimpse of various types of legislation currently under consideration. While either the Senate or the House of Representatives may initiate a bill proposal, be aware that many bills never become law; they may never make it out of committee, be blocked by a Senate filibuster, be delayed, lack sufficient votes, never be agreed upon by the two houses, or be vetoed by the president.

Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018 (H.R. 1625) – This is the latest budget bill. It appropriates $1.3 trillion of Treasury funds until the end of September—which is the end of the fiscal year. The following is a sampling of some of the provisions included in the 2,232-page bill:

  • Service members receive a 2.4 percent pay raise
  • Civilian government workers receive a 1.9 percent pay increase
  • $1.6 billion allocated to border security measures, including $251 million for secondary fencing, $445 million for levee fencing, $196 million for “primary pedestrian fencing” and $445 million to replace existing fencing
  • $2 billion to increase security and learn how to identify potential threats
  • $3.6 billion to address the opioid crisis
  • $700 billion for defense spending
  • $380 million to improve election security and technology
  • $300 million to the FBI for counterintelligence funding to combat Russian hacking
  • $152.8 million each to the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities ($3 million increase from last year)
  • Exempts minor league baseball team owners from having to pay their players minimum wage
  • Newly dedicated funds (up to $3 billion each year) to address wildfire prevention and disasters
  • Includes specific language that blocks a proposed Trump administration rule that would have allowed employers to keep or pool tips earned by wait staff

The bill was passed by Congress and immediately signed by the president on March 23.

Taiwan Travel Act (H.R. 535) – Sponsored by Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH) on Jan. 3, 2017, this bill is designed to encourage tourist travel between the United States and Taiwan. The legislation was signed by the president on March 16.

Veteran’s Care Financial Protection Act of 2017 (H.R. 3122) – Sponsored by Rep. Matthew Cartwright (R-PA) on Feb. 7, 2017, this bill requires the Department of Veterans Affairs to post a notice on its website warning that there are bad actors preying specifically on veterans who receive a VA pension with the supplemental benefit for assisted living or in-home personal care. The bill also authorizes the Government Accountability Office to conduct a study on how to better protect vulnerable veterans from fraud and abuse. The bill was enacted after being signed by the president on March 9.

Improving Rural Call Quality and Reliability Act of 2017 (S. 96) – Sponsored by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) on Jan. 11, 2017, this bill requires third-party intermediate providers who transmit long-distance phone calls in rural areas between major providers (e.g., Verizon, AT&T, Sprint) to register with the Federal Communications Commission and follow its rules regarding service quality standards. The legislation is designed to improve phone service reliability in rural areas. The bill was enacted on Feb. 26, 2018. 

Gateway Arch National Park Designation Act (S. 1438) – Sponsored by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) on June 26, 2017, this bill re-designates the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in the State of Missouri as the “Gateway Arch National Park.” The bill was signed into law by the president on Feb. 22.