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H.R. 39: TALENT Act of 2017

Jan 11, 2017 at 1:46 p.m. ET. On Motion to Suspend the Rules and Pass in the House.

This was a vote to pass H.R. 39 (115th) in the House. This vote was taken under a House procedure called “suspension of the rules” which is typically used to pass non-controversial bills. Votes under suspension require a 2/3rds majority. A failed vote under suspension can be taken again.

The last bill President Obama signed was H.R. 39, the Tested Ability to Leverage Exceptional National Talent Act, or the TALENT Act. It is now Public Law 115–1.

What the law does

President Obama launched the Presidential Innovation Fellows Program in 2012, to recruit private sector software engineers, designers and others into the public sector for 12-month stints to improve the usability of governmental programs and websites.

Obama highlighted some of the improvements the fellows had brought about during a 2015 speech: “Thanks to their efforts, veterans have enhanced access to care and benefits they’ve earned. Families have greater access to their own electronic medical records. Police departments are making their data searchable online. More of our students gain access to high speed internet in their schools every single day.”

After Obama established the program by executive order, this bill codified its provisions into permanent law, to be run by the General Services Administration (GSA).

Who supports it

Who supported it? Seemingly almost everybody, considering the bill passed with 96 percent support in the House.

“Right now, it can still take hours for citizens to get the IRS on the phone to ask the most basic questions. Parents and students still deal with clunky user interfaces when applying for tuition assistance. And the VA still uses a scheduling system that is a quarter-century old. It doesn’t have to be this way,” lead House sponsor Kevin McCarthy said on the House floor while promoting the legislation.

> “I sponsored the TALENT Act to make sure this innovation program [the Presidential Innovation Fellows Program] continues into the future. By drawing on the great talent of the American people, we can make government effective, efficient, and accountable.”

Who opposes it

Very few people opposed the bill, but the 17 Republican holdouts were entirely right-wing Freedom Caucus members. GovTrack Insider could not track down any statements or press releases from a member voting no, possibly indicating a hesitancy to tout their opposition to such a popular bill. But the likely explanation from the Freedom Caucus crowd is opposition to the expansion of a government program at taxpayer expense, popular though it may be. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) had not produced a cost estimate for the law as of this writing.

Votes and presidential signature

The TALENT Act was introduced by the House Majority Leader, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA23). It passed the House 386–17 on January 11, with all Democrats in favor and Republicans largely in favor with a few holdouts, 217–7.

It then passed the Senate by a unanimous consent voice vote. Obama signed it on his last day in office, mere hours before inauguration.

McCarthy had previously introduced a version of the TALENT Act in July 2016 which passed the House 409–8, an even larger majority than this time around, but never received a vote in the Senate. That’s not to be confused with last Congress’s identically-acronymed To Aid Gifted and High-Ability Learners by Empowering the Nation’s Teachers Act, which didn’t pass and has yet to be reintroduced in this Congress.

Totals

All Votes R D
Yea 96%
 
 
386
217
 
169
 
Nay 4%
 
 
17
17
 
0
 
Not Voting
 
 
31
6
 
25
 

Passed. 2/3 Required. Source: house.gov.

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Study Guide

How well do you understand this vote? Use this study guide to find out.

You can find answers to most of the questions below here on the vote page. For a guide to understanding the bill this vote was about, see here.

What was the procedure for this vote?

  1. What was this vote on?
  2. Not all votes are meant to pass legislation. In the Senate some votes are not about legislation at all, since the Senate must vote to confirm presidential nominations to certain federal positions.

    This vote is related to a bill. However, that doesn’t necessarily tell you what it is about. Congress makes many decisions in the process of passing legislation, such as on the procedures for debating the bill, whether to change the bill before voting on passage, and even whether to vote on passage at all.

    You can learn more about the various motions used in Congress at EveryCRSReport.com. If you aren’t sure what the House was voting on, try seeing if it’s on this list.

  3. What is the next step after this vote?
  4. Take a look at where this bill is in the legislative process. What might come next? Keep in mind what this specific vote was on, and the context of the bill. Will there be amendments? Will the other chamber of Congress vote on it, or let it die?

    For this question it may help to briefly examine the bill itself.

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    One tool that will be helpful in answering this question is the cartogram at the top of the page. A cartogram is a stylized map of the United States that shows each district as an identical hexagon. This view allows you to see the how the representatives from each district voted arranged by their geography and colored by their political party. What trends can you see in the cartogram for this vote?

  3. How did your representative vote?
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