Legality of US Airstrike in Syria, & More from CRS

Public debate over the legal authority for the April 6 U.S. missile strike on a Syrian airbase is reviewed in a new brief from the Congressional Research Service, which stops short of proposing a conclusion of its own.

“It remains to be seen whether the Trump Administration will release a statement explaining its legal basis for the missile strike under international law, but even if such a statement is forthcoming, it seems unlikely that it would put an end to this debate,” the CRS brief said. See U.S. Strike on Syrian Airbase: Legal under International Law?, CRS Legal Sidebar, April 17, 2017.

Other new reports from the Congressional Research Service include the following.

The Marshall Plan: 70th Anniversary, CRS Insight, April 18, 2017

U.S.-UK Free Trade Agreement: Prospects and Issues for Congress, April 14, 2017

France’s 2017 Presidential Election: In Brief, April 13, 2017

Border-Adjusted Consumption Taxes and Exchange Rate Movements: Theory and Evidence, April 18, 2017

The Revenue Baseline for Tax Reform, CRS Insight, April 14, 2017

Congressional News Media and the House and Senate Press Galleries, April 13, 2017

NASS and U.S. Crop Production Forecasts: Methods and Issues, April 13, 2017

Dressed to the Nines: What’s Next for the Nine-Justice Supreme Court, CRS Legal Sidebar, April 10, 2017

Westinghouse Bankruptcy Filing Could Put New U.S. Nuclear Projects at Risk, CRS Insight, April 19, 2017

Climate Change: Legal Issues, & More from CRS

Federal laws and regulations underlying the U.S. government’s approach to climate change, and litigation regarding their scope and implementation, are discussed in a new report from the Congressional Research Service. See U.S. Climate Change Regulation and Litigation: Selected Legal Issues, April 3, 2017.

Other new and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service include the following.

Filibusters and Cloture in the Senate, updated April 7, 2017

Invoking Cloture in the Senate, updated April 6, 2017

The Value of Energy Tax Incentives Across Energy Resources: Trends over Time, CRS Insight, April 6, 2017

Smith v. Obama: A Servicemember’s Legal Challenge to the Campaign Against the Islamic State, CRS Legal Sidebar, updated April 4, 2017

Military Pay: Key Questions and Answers, updated April 3, 2017

Latin America and the Caribbean: Fact Sheet on Leaders and Elections, updated April 6, 2017

Federal Disaster Assistance: The National Flood Insurance Program and Other Federal Disaster Assistance Programs Available to Individuals and Households After a Flood, April 6, 2017

FirstNet’s Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network Moves Forward, CRS Insight, April 4, 2017

What Constitutes “Sexual Abuse of a Minor” For Immigration Purposes?, CRS Legal Sidebar, April 6, 2017

Navy DDG-51 and DDG-1000 Destroyer Programs: Background and Issues for Congress, updated April 7, 2017

Navy Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) Program: Background and Issues for Congress, updated April 6, 2017

Navy Virginia (SSN-774) Class Attack Submarine Procurement: Background and Issues for Congress, updated April 6, 2017

Navy Ford (CVN-78) Class Aircraft Carrier Program: Background and Issues for Congress, updated April 6, 2017

Navy Littoral Combat Ship (LCS)/Frigate Program: Background and Issues for Congress, updated April 6, 2017

The Trump Defense Budget Proposals, and More from CRS

Would the Trump Administration’s defense budget proposals comply with the current Budget Control Act limits on defense spending?

“No,” answered the Congressional Research Service CRS in a new report, which was authored by CRS specialist Pat Towell and analyst Lynn M. Williams. See The Trump Administration’s March 2017 Defense Budget Proposals: Frequently Asked Questions, April 3, 2017.

Other new and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service include the following.

The War Powers Resolution: Concepts and Practice, updated March 28, 2017

FY2017 Defense Appropriations Fact Sheet: Selected Highlights of H.R. 5293, S. 3000, and H.R. 1301, updated March 28, 2017

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), updated March 31, 2017

The Army’s Sustainable Readiness Model (SRM), CRS Insight, March 31, 2017

Votes on Measures to Adjust the Statutory Debt Limit, 1978 to Present, updated March 30, 2017

Keystone XL Pipeline: Development Issues, CRS Insight, March 30, 2017

Expiring Funds for Primary Care, CRS Insight, March 30, 2017

Overview of CEQ Guidance on Greenhouse Gases and Climate Change, CRS Insight, updated March 30, 2017

The Civil Service Reform Act: Due Process and Misconduct-Related Adverse Actions, March 29, 2017

A Brief Overview of Rulemaking and Judicial Review, updated March 27, 2017

Major Disaster Assistance from the Disaster Relief Fund: State Profiles, updated March 29, 2017

Sub-Saharan Africa: Key Issues, Challenges, and U.S. Responses, March 21, 2017

Libya: Transition and U.S. Policy, updated March 29, 2017

Afghanistan: Post-Taliban Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy, updated March 28, 2017

Burma’s Political Prisoners and U.S. Policy: In Brief, March 30, 2017

Iran Sanctions, updated March 31, 2017

China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities — Background and Issues for Congress, updated March 29, 2017

Congressional Redistricting Law, & More from CRS

Former President Barack Obama “is gearing up to throw himself into the wonky and highly partisan issue of redistricting, with the goal of reversing the electoral declines Democrats experienced under his watch,” the Washington Post and other news outlets reported this week.

The legal framework governing redistricting is discussed in a new report from the Congressional Research Service. See Congressional Redistricting Law: Background and Recent Court Rulings, March 23, 2017.

Other new and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service include the following.

Pipeline Security: Recent Attacks, CRS Insight, updated March 21, 2017

A Shift in the International Security Environment: Potential Implications for Defense–Issues for Congress, updated March 23, 2017

State and Local “Sanctuary” Policies Limiting Participation in Immigration Enforcement, March 23, 2017

Stafford Act Assistance and Acts of Terrorism, March 22, 2017

The Financial Action Task Force: An Overview, updated March 23, 2017

Issues with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, March 24, 2017

Commercial Truck Safety: Overview, March 21, 2017

Collective Bargaining and the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute: Selected Legal Issues, March 21, 2017

An Overview of Accreditation of Higher Education in the United States, updated March 23, 2017

Budget Actions in 2017, March 22, 2017

Egypt: Background and U.S. Relations, updated March 24, 2017

Navy Virginia (SSN-774) Class Attack Submarine Procurement: Background and Issues for Congress, updated March 22, 2017

Navy Columbia Class (Ohio Replacement) Ballistic Missile Submarine (SSBN[X]) Program: Background and Issues for Congress, updated March 22, 2017

An Introduction to Defense Policy

Most people are not going to read a book-length study of nuclear weapons command and control, and they shouldn’t have to. But those who need a quick sketch — whether they are reporters, students, or regular citizens — can now find a concise, two-page introduction to the topic from the Congressional Research Service. See Defense Primer: Command and Control of Nuclear Forces, CRS In Focus, December 1, 2016.

This document is part of a series of some three dozen “defense primers” that were prepared lately by CRS for new members of Congress in order to explain “key aspects of the Department of Defense and how Congress exercises authority over it.” The reports can serve the same purpose for interested members of the public.

The CRS primers naturally will not turn readers into experts. But they generally do an excellent job of presenting complex or obscure matters in clear language that almost anyone can understand, while identifying key policy issues, and introducing the essential vocabulary used to address them. The fact that CRS has no particular institutional stake in those issues enhances the credibility of the reports and makes them useful to readers of any persuasion, and to those who don’t yet know what to think.

Among the titles in the series are these:

Defense Primer: Intelligence Support to Military Operations, CRS In Focus, December 30, 2016

Defense Primer: Organization of U.S. Ground Forces, CRS In Focus, December 29, 2016

Defense Primer: Commanding U.S. Military Operations, CRS In Focus, December 13, 2016

Defense Primer: Ballistic Missile Defense, CRS In Focus, December 12, 2016

Defense Primer: Cyberspace Operations, CRS In Focus, December 8, 2016

Defense Primer: Legal Authorities for the Use of Military Forces, CRS In Focus, December 7, 2016

Defense Primer: Congress’s Constitutional Authority with Regard to the Armed Forces, CRS In Focus, December 7, 2016

Defense Primer: Budgeting for National and Defense Intelligence, CRS In Focus, December 5, 2016

Defense Primer: The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), CRS In Focus, November 16, 2016

Defense Primer: Geography, Strategy, and U.S. Force Design, CRS In Focus, October 14, 2016

Every report in the CRS defense primer series is available on the FAS website here.

Talking About the Defense Budget, and More from CRS

The U.S. defense budget is comprised of several distinct components, including “base” and supplemental spending, nuclear weapons expenses, veterans benefits, and other defense-related costs.

When discussing “the defense budget,” it is therefore important to specify what is being described. Depending on what is included or excluded, “total” U.S. defense spending each year can vary by hundreds of millions of dollars.

This definitional question is neatly illustrated in a new graphic from the Congressional Research Service. See How People Talk About the FY2017 National Defense Budget.

Other new and updated publications from the Congressional Research Service include the following.

Defense Primer: The National Defense Budget Function (050), CRS In Focus, March 17, 2017

Defense Primer: DOD Contractors, CRS In Focus, February 10, 2017

Defense Primer: Procurement, CRS In Focus, February 10, 2017

Military Transition Assistance Program (TAP): An Overview, CRS In Focus, March 15, 2017

Supreme Court Appointment Process: Consideration by the Senate Judiciary Committee, updated March 17, 2017

Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations in Brief, updated March 17, 2017

Sanctuary Jurisdictions and Select Federal Grant Funding Issues: In Brief, March 16, 2017

The Decennial Census: Issues for 2020, March 16, 2017

A Survey of House and Senate Committee Rules on Subpoenas, updated March 16, 2017

Medicare Primer, updated March 16, 2017

Pending ACA Legal Challenges Face Uncertain Future, CRS Legal Sidebar, March 16, 2017

Statutory, Average, and Effective Marginal Tax Rates in the Federal Individual Income Tax: Background and Analysis, March 16, 2017

Should the U.S. Trade Deficit be Redefined?, CRS Insight, March 17, 2017

Moving On: TPP Signatories Meet in Chile, CRS Insight, March 16, 2017

Navy Lasers, Railgun, and Hypervelocity Projectile: Background and Issues for Congress, updated March 17, 2017

Navy Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) Program: Background and Issues for Congress, updated March 17, 2017

Navy John Lewis (TAO-205) Class Oiler Shipbuilding Program: Background and Issues for Congress, updated March 17, 2017

Navy Ford (CVN-78) Class Aircraft Carrier Program: Background and Issues for Congress, updated March 16, 2017

Science & Technology Issues Facing Congress, & More from CRS

Science and technology policy issues that may soon come before Congress were surveyed in a new report from the Congressional Research Service.

Overarching issues include the impact of recent reductions in federal spending for research and development.

“Concerns about reductions in federal R&D funding have been exacerbated by increases in the R&D investments of other nations (China, in particular); globalization of R&D and manufacturing activities; and trade deficits in advanced technology products, an area in which the United States previously ran trade surpluses. At the same time, some Members of Congress have expressed concerns about the level of federal funding in light of the current federal fiscal condition. In addition, R&D funding decisions may be affected by differing perspectives on the appropriate role of the federal government in advancing science and technology.”

See Science and Technology Issues in the 115th Congress, March 14, 2017.

Other new and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service include the following.

The American Health Care Act, March 14, 2017

Previewing a 2018 Farm Bill, March 15, 2017

EPA Policies Concerning Integrated Planning and Affordability of Water Infrastructure, updated March 14, 2017

National Park Service: FY2017 Appropriations and Ten-Year Trends, updated March 14, 2017

Qatar: Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy, updated March 15, 2017

Northern Ireland: Current Issues and Ongoing Challenges in the Peace Process, updated March 14, 2017

Navy LX(R) Amphibious Ship Program: Background and Issues for Congress, updated March 14, 2017

Judge Gorsuch’s Jurisprudence, and More from CRS

A new report from the Congressional Research Service examines the judicial record of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil M. Gorsuch in advance of his Senate confirmation hearing.

“The report begins by discussing the nominee’s views on two cross-cutting issues — the role of the judiciary and statutory interpretation. It then addresses fourteen separate areas of law, arranged in alphabetical order, from ‘administrative law’ to ‘takings'” and including civil rights, freedom of speech and separation of powers.

See Judge Neil M. Gorsuch: His Jurisprudence and Potential Impact on the Supreme Court, March 8, 2017

Other new and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service include the following.

Senate Judiciary Committee Hearings for Supreme Court Nominations: Historical Overview and Data, CRS Insight, March 13, 2017

Taxpayers with Zero Income Tax Liability: Trends Over Time and Across Income Levels, CRS Insight, March 10, 2017

An Introduction to Poverty Measurement, March 9, 2017

Dark Web, updated March 10, 2017

Major Disaster Declarations for Snow Assistance and Severe Winter Storms: An Overview, updated March 13, 2017

U.S. Senate Vacancies: Contemporary Developments and Perspectives, March 10, 2017

Colombia’s Changing Approach to Drug Policy, March 10, 2017

The Marijuana Policy Gap and the Path Forward, March 10, 2017

Hemp as an Agricultural Commodity, updated March 10, 2017

A Change in Direction for Seoul? The Impeachment of South Korea’s President, CRS Insight, March 10, 2017

German Chancellor Angela Merkel Visits President Trump, CRS Insight, March 13, 2017

U.S. World War I (1917-1918) Centennial, CRS Insight, March 13, 2017

History of Attorney General Recusal, and More from CRS

“The recent announcement by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions that he would recuse himself from any investigations into President Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign has raised questions about how often recusals by the Attorney General have happened in the past.”

“While there is no official compilation of recusals, it appears that Attorneys General of the United States have recused themselves at least 15 times since 1989,” according to the Congressional Research Service, which tabulated those 15 instances. See A Brief History of Attorney General Recusal, CRS Legal Sidebar, March 8, 2017.

Other new and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service include the following.

Six Justice Court to Decide Liability of Officials for Post 9/11 Detention, CRS Legal Sidebar, March 7, 2017

What Is the Effect of Enacting a Congressional Review Act Resolution of Disapproval?, CRS Insight, March 3, 2017

WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement, March 3, 2017

Northern Ireland’s Snap Assembly Elections: Outcome and Implications, CRS Insight, March 7, 2017

The Greek Debt Crisis: Continuing Challenges, CRS Insight, March 2, 2017

Marine Corps Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV) and Marine Personnel Carrier (MPC): Background and Issues for Congress, updated March 8, 2017

Resolutions of Inquiry in the House, CRS Insight, March 6, 2017

Federal Land Ownership: Overview and Data, updated March 3, 2017

Anti-Money Laundering, and More from CRS

A new report from the Congressional Research Service provides a comprehensive overview of government efforts to combat money-laundering, discussing the scope of the money-laundering problem, the strategies employed to combat it, and the resources that have been made available for that purpose.

The US government has provided anti-money laundering support to more than 100 countries. But “Halting the introduction and circulation of criminally generated proceeds in the financial system, and, ultimately, depriving criminals from using illicit wealth remains a challenge,” the CRS report said. See Anti-Money Laundering: An Overview for Congress, March 1, 2017.

Other new and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service include the following.

The Scalia Vacancy in Historical Context: Frequently Asked Questions, March 1, 2017

Majority, Concurring, and Dissenting Opinions by Judge Neil M. Gorsuch, March 1, 2017

Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA): A Summary of the Act and Its Major Requirements, updated March 1, 2017

Federally Funded Academic Research Requirements: Background and Issues in Brief, February 28, 2017

An Overview of Recent Tax Reform Proposals, February 28, 2017

Independence of Federal Financial Regulators: Structure, Funding, and Other Issues, February 28, 2017

U.S.-Mexico Water Sharing: Background and Recent Developments, updated March 2, 2017

Russia: Background and U.S. Interests, March 1, 2017