Senate

Senate passes dozens of bills on way out of town

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The Senate cleared dozens of bills early Saturday morning as lawmakers prepared to leave Washington until next year. 

The upper chamber passed more than 70 pieces of legislation by unanimous consent during a rare Saturday session. Most senators had already left the Capitol after averting a government shutdown with a short-term spending bill just before midnight Friday.
 
{mosads}Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) wrapped up the chamber’s work for the year around 6:40 a.m., capping up a long final night of work for the Senate. 
 
The Ohio Republican noted he has the seat once held by the former astronaut, who died this week. 
 
“I had the privilege of getting to know him through the work we did,” Portman said from the Senate floor. “One of the passions he had was to ensure that we had good government in this country and that included not having federal government send unfunded mandates down to the state and local governments.” 
 
A handful of bills passed early Saturday morning were aimed at helping veterans, including a wide-ranging measure from Rep. David Roe (Tenn.). 
 
The GOP lawmaker’s bill includes provisions to try to speed up the Department of Veterans’ Affairs appeals process and to make it easier for homeless veterans to get VA benefits. 
 
Another veterans-related bill from Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) would require the VA to hand over an annual report to Congress detailing bonuses given to regional office directors, directors of medical centers and directors of veterans integrated service networks. 
 
Heller argued earlier this year that the bill was needed to help bring “greater transparency and accountability” to the VA.
 
The department has been under the congressional spotlight since allegations in 2014 that VA facilities manipulated data to hide how long veterans were waiting for medical appointments.
 
The Senate passed the authorization for the State Department, which includes support for embassy security. Saturday morning’s passage marks the first time Congress has sent an authorization bill to the White House in 14 years. 
 
“Restoring Congress’ rightful role in the conduct of U.S. engagement overseas has been a top priority of mine as chairman,” Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said in statement. “Going forward, I am hopeful we can build even further on this important progress to ensure State Department funding is used in the most responsible manner to advance American interests.”
 
Corker is reportedly under consideration to be President-elect Donald Trump’s secretary of State.
 
The Senate also cleared legislation from Rep. John Carney (D-Del.) that would require the Securities and Exchange Commission to create the Office of the Advocate for Small Business Capital Formation. 
 
The bill, which has been stuck in Senate limbo for months, would try to bolster communications with SEC leadership about issues impacting small businesses.
 
A twice-blocked bill from Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) would help crackdown on animal cruelty. 
 
Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) initially stalled the bill before the election, lamenting Republicans’ treatment of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland. It was also blocked earlier this week because of a stalemate on miners’ benefits.
 
The Senate passed legislation, known as the HEAR Act, to help return artwork that was stolen by Nazis during the Holocaust. 
 
“Today, we delivered a long-overdue victory for the families of Holocaust victims,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said in a statement. “This bipartisan legislation rights a terrible injustice and sends a clear signal that America will continue to root out every noxious vestige of the Nazi regime.” 
 
The Senate cleared House-passed legislation from Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) that will allow Secret Service agents to receive additional overtime pay for work in 2016. 
 
USA Today reported in late October that 1,000 agents had maxed out on potential overtime pay partly because the busy election season, meaning they wouldn’t be eligible for additional overtime pay of the rest of the year. 
 
– Updated at 8:11 a.m.
Tags Bob Corker Dean Heller Donald Trump Harry Reid Jason Chaffetz Rob Portman Ted Cruz

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