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Federal update from the Normandy Group
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Author:  Ben Stafford [ Tue May 26, 2015 7:56 am ]
Post subject:  Federal update from the Normandy Group

House. On Monday, May 18, the House approved a package of legislation to enhance federal assistance programs for veterans. One of the bills, passed unanimously, would authorize the Secretary of Veterans' Affairs (VA) to give preference to entities that employ veterans on a full-time basis when awarding federal procurement contracts.

On Tuesday, May 19, the House passed a highway policy extension that will buy two more months before both money and authority run out again. This passed in a 387 to 35 vote.

On Thursday, May 21, the House passed HR 2496, the Construction Authorization and Choice Improvement Act, which will help keep the Aurora VA hospital from shutting down this weekend by raising the authorization cap to $900 million and reforming elements of the Choice Act that will help veterans receive care outside of the VA system.

Senate. On Thursday, May 21 the Senate voted Thursday to end debate on fast-track trade legislation, handing a significant victory to President Obama and moving the bill a step closer to passage. Senators voted 62-38 on the bill, which will allow the president to send a sweeping Asia-Pacific trade deal to Congress for an up-or-down vote, and prevent the deal from being amended by Congress.

Administration. On Monday, May 18, it was announced President Obama is banning local police departments from receiving a range of military-style equipment from the federal government -- from grenade launchers to bayonets to certain armored vehicles -- as he implements the recommendations of a panel that examined the controversial gear giveaways in the wake of the Ferguson riots.

Also on Monday May 18, President Obama went to Camden New Jersey to celebrate the progress a revamped police force has made in building trust between law enforcement and the people of Camden - a rare bright spot in what he has acknowledged is an otherwise troubled relationship between the police and black communities.

On Thursday, May 21, President Barack Obama met with Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi to assure him more U.S. aid and designated Tunisia as a major non-NATO ally of the U.S., which clears the way for the country to receive more military aid and other upgraded security arrangements.
Defense. The Senate could take up its version of the fiscal defense policy bill as soon as next month. The panel unveiled its draft of the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) last week. The $612 billion policy blueprint sets spending limits for all Defense Department programs and initiatives. The House passed its version of the bill on Friday, despite a veto threat from President Obama.

Upcoming Committee Hearings:
β€’ On Tuesday, June 2, the House Committee on Veterans Affairs will hold a Legislative Hearing on H.R. 356; H.R. 832; H.R. 1994; H.R. 2133; H.R. 2275; H.R. 2344; H.R. 2360; H.R. 2361; and a draft bill entitled, β€œTo amend title 38, United States Code, to make certain modifications and improvements in the transfer of unused educational assistance benefits under the Post 9/11 Educational Assistance Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes.’’

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