July/ August POAM Washington Report

Congress began a month-long recess on August 5, allowing Members an extended opportunity to reconnect with their constituents midway through the 2013 Congressional calendar. Upon returning on September 9, both Chambers plan to take up appropriations bills that were not passed before they adjourned. They must pass a budget or a Continuing Resolution (CR) by September 30 in order to avoid a government shut-down. The following are updates on Congressional developments that impact local law enforcement.

Senate Takes Final Vote on Immigration

On Thursday, June 27, after months of negotiations immigration overhaul legislation received a final vote in the Senate. After weeks of debate on amendments that included border security provisions, employment requirements and path to citizenship changes, the Senate passed their version of the legislation on a 68-32 vote both Michigan Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow vote in favor of the legislation. The passage did not come as a surprise, as lawmakers have been working in recent weeks to build support and create a more bipartisan bill.

Sources have suggested that in spite of overwhelming support in the Senate, the likelihood of the bill moving through the House is slim as the House is currently working on an immigration bill that is not likely to garner many votes from the Minority. Sources suggest significant changes will have to be made in the House version for the bill to pass out of the House and proceed to a Conference Committee where the two versions could be reconciled.

Senate Law Enforcement Caucus Hosts Cyber Security Experts

The Senate Law Enforcement Caucus recently hosted a briefing on cyber security that emphasized the critical role state and local agencies play in the fight against cybercrime invasions, a growing security threat that attacks all levels of policing according to the Law Enforcement Caucus. The meeting brought in experts from a variety of fields including the Internet Crimes Against Children Federal Task Force, the Delaware State Police High Technology Crimes Unit, and the Executive District Attorney and Chief of the Investigation Division at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office amongst others who have dealt with cyber security breaches in large capacities.

The panelists and contributors who span different expertise stressed the importance of partnerships among federal, state, and local levels to strengthen cyber security. They also emphasized that strong cooperation and frequent communication are critical to preventing, combatting, and prosecuting cybercrime. In addition, they also highlighted how sharing resources amongst the different levels of law enforcements would assists in the fight against cybercrime for local agencies. To increase local capacity to respond to cyber-attacks, Senator Christopher Coons (D-DE) introduced the bipartisan Cyber Warriors Act of 2013 in March. This bill would establish Cyber and Computer Network Incident Response Teams, known as ‘Cyber Guards,’ as part of the National Guard.

Senate Leaders Lay Out Plan for Tax Overhaul

According to Congressional sources, in an effort to revamp the tax code, top tax-writers in the U.S. Senate will challenge their colleagues to defend the tax breaks they think are most important and should remain in the system. Senators Max Baucus, (D-MT) Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT) have asked fellow lawmakers to justify the breaks they favor in a “dear colleague” letter.

The Senators made it clear that they will not be doing away with the all tax breaks, however, their decision will put $1 trillion in tax breaks up for debate. By forcing lawmakers to focus on the tax breaks that boost the country’s economy at state and federal levels the Senate Leaders hope to build a foundation of more concise tax code.

Bill Introduced to Assist Law Enforcement in Prevention of Corporate Misconduct

Michigan Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) introduced a bill (S. 1465) on August 1st that will assist law enforcement in preventing an array of United States corporate misconduct including money laundering and tax evasion. In addition to taking on the prevention of corporate transgressions and expedited prosecution of criminal and civil wrongdoings in the corporate realm, the bill allocates funds to fight terrorism.

Bulletproof Vest Partnership Program

A perennial bill and a top priority of the POAM, the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program Reauthorization Act of 2013 (S. 933) was reintroduced to the 113th Congress by Senator Patrick Leahy (D- VT) on August 1, a day before recess began. The bill passed out of the Judiciary Committee on a 14-3 vote and awaits further action on the Senate floor. The legislation would extend the authorization of appropriations for the bulletproof vest partnership grant program through FY2018 and explicitly states that the allocated funds may not be used for anything but the protection of law enforcement in the form of body armor. The grant money is included in the FY2013 Department of Justice budget. In FY2012 alone, the program delivered $496,264.51 to MI Law Enforcement jurisdictions for the purchase of vests.

Senate Confirms Permanent Director for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

Following a 53-42 confirmation vote on the Senate floor, Byron Todd Jones, the U.S. attorney for Minnesota and the acting part-time director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, was named permanent director of the bureau effectively ending a seven-year stretch in which the agency has lacked a full-time leader. While the National Rifle Association has blocked ATF nominees in the past, the organization declined to take a position on Jones’ confirmation.

Senate Confirms James Comey as FBI Director

On July 29, the Senate confirmed James B. Comey as the new director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation with overwhelming bipartisan support. A former hedge fund executive and senior Justice Department official under President George W. Bush, Comey’s confirmation proceedings were delayed on the Senate floor when Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) attempted to filibuster the nomination in order to force the FBI to explain its domestic drone surveillance policy. Comey will succeed Robert Mueller, who is stepping down in September after twelve years heading the agency.

House and Senate Appropriations Committees Adopts Spending Allocations

After a voice vote revision on 12 annual spending bills that added $549 million to the Commerce-Justice-Science bill allocation, the House has increased their total for the spending bill to $47.4 billion for fiscal year 2014. Despite the increase, the House still adheres to the budget limits set by the 2011 deficit reduction law that caps spending at $967 billion. The Senate however, approved a $1.058 trillion in discretionary spending for next year, providing a $91 billion gap between the two Chamber’s versions and surpassing the regulations set by the deficit reduction law.

The larger budget on the Senate side assumes that Congress will repeal the sequestration budget restraints that began March 1. The lower figure from the House shows it has not adopted the same assumption and was approved with the current spending holds in mind. Both Chambers must move ahead with individual spending bills that they failed to pass before the August recess, or pass a stop-gap funding measure (CR) by September 30 in order to avoid a government shut-down.

As always, the Washington, DC office of POAM will be closely following legislation pertinent to the police and peace officers of Michigan. If you have any questions or need additional information regarding federal initiatives regarding the law enforcement community, please do not hesitate to contact us at (202) 544-9840.