Senate Democrats block passage of a $1.1 billion Zika plan, the United States and China commit to the Paris Climate Agreement, and more…
IN THE NEWS
- Democrats in the U.S. Senate blocked the passage of a $1.1 billion plan to fight the Zika virus due to the inclusion of a provision that prevents Planned Parenthood from receiving money to combat the virus, which can be transmitted sexually, through the use of contraception. Prior to the vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) expressed confusion about the move, questioning why “Democrats would block plans to keep women and babies safe from Zika,” though Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.) reportedly felt that Republicans had sabotaged the bill through the inclusion of the Planned Parenthood provision.
- Meeting in China, President Barack Obama and President Xi Jinping of China formally committed both of their nations to the Paris Climate Agreement—meaning that the Agreement, which must be ratified by at least 55 countries representing 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions by January 2017 in order to enter into legal force, has now been ratified by 27 countries representing nearly 40 percent of emissions.
- The Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA) filed suit against the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), challenging the agency’s Member Business Loan rule, which granted NCUA-insured credit unions “greater flexibility and individual autonomy in…providing commercial and business loans.” The NCUA had touted the rule as “moderniz[ing] the regulatory requirements that govern credit union commercial lending activities,” but the ICBA asserted in its complaint that the rule violated the Federal Credit Union Act’s (FCU Act) limitations on credits unions’ ability to hold commercial loans. ICBA President Camden Fine also criticized the NCUA for “expand[ing] loopholes for tax-exempt credit unions…and putting consumers at risk.”
- ITT Technical Institute announced that it will close all of its campuses, after the U.S. Department of Education (DoED) decided last week to place additional requirements on ITT, including “no longer allowing ITT to enroll new students with federal aid.” In a message to ITT students, U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King, Jr. explained that ITT had come under greater scrutiny over the past two years due to “significant concerns about ITT’s administrative capacity, organizational integrity, financial viability, and ability to serve students” and that “[t]he school’s decisions have put its students and millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded federal student aid at risk,” but ITT blasted the Education Department’s actions, which it said demonstrated “complete disregard” for due process and caused “irrevocable” damage to students whose educational pursuits were suddenly interrupted.
- Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) sent a letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) demanding to know whether a recent rule promulgated by the FDA—which went into effect on August 8th and allows the FDA to regulate tobacco products—would “prohibit tobacco manufacturers and distributors from donating tobacco products to service members.” Rep. Hunter, a former Marine who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, noted that “tobacco manufacturers and distributors have long taken part in a time-honored tradition of donating tobacco products to service members, often while deployed,” and asserted that “[i]t would be unacceptable for the FDA to prohibit the distribution of tobacco products to service members who are fighting to protect those very rights that may now be restricted.”
- The U.S. House of Representatives passed by voice vote the Innovation in Offshore Leasing Act—a bill that would move the auction process for offshore drilling rights, which is administered by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), to an entirely online system. The bill, which came to the House a week after the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) finalized a rule that moves the onshore drilling auction process online, was touted by Rep. Garrett Graves (R-La.), one of its sponsors, as a way to increase government efficiency, but Blake Kopcho of the Center for Biological Diversity reportedly felt the bill was more a means of “[h]iding offshore fossil fuel auctions from public scrutiny.”
- The U.S. House of Representatives voted 399-0 to pass the Survivor’s Bill of Rights Act, which would ensure that victims of sexual assault have access to forensic evidence collection kits, known as rape kits, and would allow them to request that the kit be preserved for the duration of the statute of limitations. Before it is sent to President Obama, the bill must be reconciled with a very similar bill that the Senate passed in May.
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its final update to the agency’s Cross State Air Pollution Rule—an update that is intended to regulate smog-forming pollution that blows eastward across the United States, and to help downwind eastern states comply with EPA’s air quality standards for ozone. The update comes in response to a 2015 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in which the court ordered EPA to reconsider the ozone emissions budgets it had set for states.
- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a final rule banning 19 chemicals from being used in antibacterial soaps marketed to consumers—including triclosan, the most widely used antiseptic in hand soap and a compound FDA first considered banning in the 1970s—because of a lack of scientific evidence that antibacterial soap has any added benefit over normal soap outside of healthcare settings, and because of concern, shared by environmental groups, that the chemicals may pose a risk to human health.
WHAT WE’RE READING THIS WEEK
- The Cato Institute recently published a policy analysis paper by Michael D. Tanner, a Senior Fellow at the Institute, assessing economic inequality in America. The paper identifies what it describes as five “myths” about inequality—including that the magnitude of inequality has never been greater, that inequality breeds poverty, and that modern wealth has often been unfairly earned. In his critique, Tanner notes that, “[i]ncreasingly, costly and restrictive regulations can create barriers to entry that reduce competition and preserve excess profits in regulated industries,” and that “reducing occupational licensing and other regulatory barriers to entrepreneurship” could improve the prospects of lower-income persons.
- In a study evaluating enrollment in private health insurance plans during 2014, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that, despite the introduction of health insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act, “enrollment in private health insurance plans remained concentrated among a small number of issuers in most states.” While each state, on average, had eleven healthcare providers participating in insurance markets, in most states the three largest providers controlled over 80% of the insurance market.
- Writing for The Hill, John DeMaggio questioned whether U.S. drug policy has in fact resulted in an increase in Americans’ use of opioids, most notably heroin. In his analysis, DeMaggio pointed to reports on border security to suggest that government promises of relaxed treatment has led to an increase in illegal immigration, which has shifted the focus of border security away from controlling drug trafficking. Additionally, DiMaggio highlighted the granting of clemency to lower level drug traffickers as a possible cause of drug access and use among youths.