Area Lawmakers Ready For New 114th Congress | St. Louis Public Radio

Area Lawmakers Ready For New 114th Congress

Jan 6, 2015

From naming local post offices for fallen service members to changing the president’s signature health-care law, area lawmakers are beginning the 114th Congress ready to introduce a wide array of legislative proposals.

Every session of Congress sees far more bills introduced than could ever be considered, and most legislative proposals last only about as long as it takes a lawmaker to issue a news release announcing the bill’s introduction.

Even for non-controversial proposals with bipartisan support, lawmakers may have to reintroduce a particular measure several times before it moves through the committee process and heads to the other chamber — let alone having any chance of landing on the president’s desk.

That has been especially true of the last several congressional sessions, which have been almost paralyzed by gridlock. But with Republicans now in charge in both houses, that may change.

In The House

This session, Republican leaders plan to take up the Hire More Heroes Act sponsored by U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville. The measure is aimed at helping small businesses hire veterans who already have health-care insurance. The bill also represents an opportunity for Republicans to put legislation changing the Affordable Care Act on the president’s desk with bipartisan backing.

“The bill exempts veterans already enrolled in health-care plans through the department of defense or the VA from being counted toward the employee limit under the president’s health-care law,” Davis said as he delivered the first Republican address of the new year this past weekend.

The measure will save small businesses money on employee health insurance and make veterans more attractive to potential employers. The bill cleared the Republican-led House with bipartisan support in the last session but was not considered by the Democratically controlled Senate.

Both Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., are including the Hire More Heroes Act on their list of legislative priorities for consideration early in the new Congress.

U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner
Credit stlpr

Early on, U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin, plans to introduce several bills, including measures to rename several local post offices in honor of local service members killed in the line of duty. While the bills are not considered controversial, they were not taken up before the end of the 113th Congress. Her office says that U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., will help steer the bills through the new Republican-led Senate.

Wagner, also in leadership, has two other bills she plans to reintroduce, including legislation to strengthen the hand of prosecutors in sex trafficking cases. Wagner also plans to reintroduce bills to require the Environmental Protection Agency to issues separate reports on the so-called “domestic benefit” before it could “issue, implement or enforce” any rules on emissions of carbon dioxide from electric power stations.

The measure is aimed at curbing what many Republicans see as administrative regulations that put the U.S. at a competitive disadvantage in jobs growth while other countries delay in curbing carbon emissions.

U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer
Credit Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-St. Elizabeth, also plans to reintroduce legislation to curb “long-winded rules that don’t make sense unless you are an expert in that field.” The bill would require federal agencies to provide a link to “a 100-word plain language summary” of any proposed rule.

One EPA rule, he said, would effectively prohibit the manufacture and sale of 85 percent of wood-burning stoves and heating systems on the market. His Wood Stove Regulator Relief Act would stop the EPA’s regulatory effort in this area.

Luetkemeyer also plans to reintroduce legislation to exempt mobile mammography vehicles from being required to pay the federal fuel excise tax. Luetkemeyer said that would allow so-called “mammovans” to provide more services in underserved areas.

U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay, D-University City, did not respond with his priorities by publication time.

From The Majority To The Minority

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., plans to reintroduce her bill to curb sexual assaults on college and university campuses. The measure enjoyed strong bipartisan support in the last session of Congress but did not get taken up for a vote in the closing hours of the last session on Congress. While McCaskill expects the bill will continue to have strong bipartisan support, the dynamics of passing the measure will be different in the Republican-led Congress and will likely require some changes to provisions in the measure.

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill
Credit Sen. McCaskill's Flickr page

McCaskill also plans to reintroduce several consumer-protection bills, such as bills to stop so-called patent trolls, in which companies and individuals file patent infringement cases solely for the purpose of extracting financial settlements. Other consumer protection measures include bills to increase protections against so-called robocalls and to simplify bills from cable and satellite TV providers.

In the last session of Congress, McCaskill also conducted hearings and sponsored legislation dealing with government oversight, something she plans to continue with legislation to protect government whistleblowers, eliminate outdated agency functions now widely available via the internet and curb wasteful government spending.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin
Credit St. Louis Public Radio

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., plans to reintroduce his Marketplace Fairness Act to require online retailers to collect sales tax. Durbin says the measure is necessary to protect small “bricks-and-mortar” businesses that collect sales tax and help support jobs and economic growth. Durbin says the measure would “leveling the playing field” between online retailers.

Durbin also plans to reintroduce legislation to bolster biomedical research, something he pushed at chairman of the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. In the Republican-led Senate, Durbin will become the ranking member on the subcommittee.

Durbin’s office also says he will continue to focus on reducing the growing costs of higher education and the amount of debt piled up by college students. Durbin has long challenged the business practices of for-profit colleges that, he says, frequently leave students with lots of debt and few job prospects.

Blunt has said in earlier interviews that passage of the Keystone XL pipeline was an important priority for him. Blunt did not respond with his list of other priorities by publication time.

Republicans on Capitol Hill will have control of both chambers of Congress when the 114th session of Congress takes office Tuesday. The Senate will have 54 Republicans, 44 Democrats and two independents. The House will have 246 Republicans, 188 Democrats. One seat is vacant with last week’s resignation of U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., who pleaded guilty of tax evasion.

“St. Louis on the Air” discusses issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh. Follow us on Twitter: @STLonAir.