Senate Committees

Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs
Topics

Role of the Fed
As established in 1913, the Federal Reserve System has historically been responsible for making decisions regarding the cost and availability of credit in the U.S. economy. As markets have become increasingly more complicated the Federal Reserve has adopted �more regulatory responsibilities while losing some of its lending abilities and independence. Moving forward, the Federal Reserve needs a clearer mandate as to what powers and responsibilities it should have as the U.S. economy recovers from recession. Without a clearer mandate, the Federal Reserve may be hesitant or unable to act in future financial situations, which could result in volatile market trends or economic disaster, and prevent efficient economic recovery for the U.S. and the international community.

Urban Transportation
Increasing the efficiency of urban transportation across the country can play a crucial role in sustaining the economic activity of urban areas by providing easy means for citizens to travel within and between cities. However, with people depending less on public urban transportation often due to unreliable service, it becomes important to consider the role that urban transportation plays in daily urban life in different regions across the country. The federal government, in cooperation with state governments, is involved in developing transportation initiative across the country to secure urban transportation�s benefits and efficiency.

Environment and Public Works
Topics

Development of Infrastructure
The environmental hazards associated with deforestation and mountain top mining degrade the environmental surrounding and can cause serious impacts on human health, including cancer. To reach coal for energy-use, mountaintop mining clears vast deciduous forests off mountains, strips away the topsoil, and then employs explosives to reach coal deposits beneath hard rock. Despite the fact, the coal industry employs many blue workers and invests in a economically growing industry that is affordable and a method for energy, which makes it very difficult to restrict or abolish.

Mountaintop Mining
The environmental hazards associated with deforestation and mountain top mining degrade the environmental surrounding and can cause serious impacts on human health, including cancer. To reach coal for energy-use, mountaintop mining clears vast deciduous forests off mountains, strips away the topsoil, and then employs explosives to reach coal deposits beneath hard rock. Despite the fact, the coal industry employs many blue workers and invests in a economically growing industry that is affordable and a method for energy, which makes it very difficult to restrict or abolish.

Health, Education, Labor and Pensions
Topics

Bilingual Education
The ability to proficiently speak more than one language has increased global competition in the workplace, especially as the world becomes increasingly globalized. As a result, current bilingual education programs throughout the United States are being scrutinized in order to determine whether or not they remain effective, or if they are even necessary at all. Language minority students benefit from bilingual education but are still producing low test scores. Language majority students lag behind students their same age in different countries in several subjects, including foreign languages. Public school districts� priorities include their overall test scores and rankings because it affects their budgets. There are several national professional associations dedicated to improving bilingual education programs around the country. Multiculturalism, immigration and globalization are all possible reasons why current bilingual education programs in the United States are no longer efficient. Current federal legislation fails to address many areas of concern in bilingual education because states are responsible for developing and implementing education policies on their own � based on their demographics and constituents.

Obesity
Obesity has become a prominent public health concern in the United States over the past decade. Excess weight negatively affects every organ system in the body and can lead to several health issues such as heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. It can also contribute to psychological distress such as low self-esteem, negative body image issues and depression � especially among children. In addition, the economic costs of addressing obesity throughout the country continue to rise. Several initiatives have been carried out in hopes of reducing overweight and obesity in the United States. However, federal regulation is difficult to obtain because state governments handle public school policies and mechanisms to regulate adult consumption of unhealthy foods are difficult to implement.

Energy and Natural Resources
Topics

Hydropower
The global climate change crisis has forced nations to consider other methods of energy production. Nonrenewable energy resources have taken a harsh toll on the global environment. Hydropower accounts for approximately seven per cent of the US's energy, and internationally is the most widely used alternative energy source. Hydropower has been a source of energy for the United States for over a century; however most hydropower operations are outdated and need more efficient mechanisms to produce electricity. This topic would look at the environmental consequences of hydropower and whether the �the United States invest more funding into the development of hydropower, and how will this investment affect America�s share in the foreign energy import market and affect the environment.


Biodiversity Protection
Extinction and the decrease of well-functioning ecosystems has led to an international decrease of biodiversity. The loss of biodiversity in the United States is a serious issue and has not been fully addressed by Congressional legislation. Conservation is at the forefront of the biodiversity issue, but if the issue it not evaluated on a federal level, biodiversity will continue to decrease. How can the United States formally address the issue of the lack of biodiversity on local, state, federal and international levels to promote conservation and other methods of protection for habitats and the betterment of ecosystems?

Foreign Relations
Topics

US-Nigeria Relations
The US has such strong economic interests in Nigeria, it is important that Nigeria improve its political situation and government. Additionally with Nigeria�s size and population, it has the potential to lead West Africa in democracy and rule of law. While relations with Nigeria are improving, it is necessary for the US to remain actively involved in developing a more stable and democratic Nigeria. �The corruption and issues of Nigeria could harm the surrounding nations of West Africa as well as US interests and businesses invested in the area.


Political Stability in Afghanistan
The United States� core goals in both Afghanistan and Pakistan are as follows: to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat Al-Qaeda, and to prevent its return to both countries. In addition to the defeat of Al-Qaeda, political stability and nation building are also on the agenda for new Afghani policy. �Many believe that less intervention is necessary for the Afghans to rebuild their own government. �Others feel that US assistance is the only way that Afghanistan will be able to stand on its own.

Intelligence
Topics

Coordinating Intelligence Organizations
The Senate Intelligence committee reached a consensus that there is a �lack of intelligence coordinating� among intelligence organizations in the United States. The lack of information sharing among intelligence agencies has led to many miscommunications and preventable domestic threats. The proper coordination of intelligence agencies in the United States is crucial to America�s national security. How can the Senate Intelligence committee properly address the issue of the lack of coordination among intelligence agencies to ensure protection of the United States?

Domestic Terrorism
International terrorism has been a focal point of American politics in the past decade. However, domestic terrorism has become a more prominent threat in recent years. The lack of mechanisms that protect Americans against domestic threat makes the nation at risk for rising radical groups and ideologies. The increase in domestic terrorism warrants the American Government to create measures to prevent possible attacks. What legislation can be implemented to directly address the issue of domestic terrorism and secure our national security on the domestic front?

Judiciary
Topics:

Immigration Reform
The United States receives thousands of documented and undocumented migrants each year. Current immigration policies and enforcement have not been effective at handling authorized immigration, or responding to undocumented migration. Immigration affects the economy and families alike who may become separated across borders, and its ineffective policies have placed social strains on both migrants and citizens, making it one of the biggest social issues of the last decade. As immigration has become a bigger political issue, presidential administrations and activists alike have echoed the need to reform the country�s immigration policies to responsibly approach the social and economic tensions with the population�s best interests in mind.


Prison Reform
US prisons are characterized by overpopulation, violence, racism, human rights abuses, excessive sentencing, discrimination, abuse of discretion, and unfair detention of undocumented workers, among other faults. Prisoners in the US have one of the highest recidivism rates in the world. US prisons are demographically lopsided as well; over sixty percent of people imprisoned in America are people of color. Many of the reasons for overpopulation of prisons, as well as racial disparity in the criminal justice system, may be traced to U.S. drug policy, especially the criminalization of marijuana and crack cocaine laws. Over one third of those incarcerated in US prisons are nonviolent offenders, many of whom are mentally ill. American taxpayers fund the criminal justice system for about $42 billion a year. The federal government has the jurisdiction of reevaluating the prison system in order to secure its efficiency and secure criminal justice and fairness in prison systems across the country.

House Committees
Agriculture
Topics

Tobacco Production
In recent years the United States tobacco industry has seen a sudden rise in competition overseas despite the elimination of price support programs and other market regulating laws in 2004. As it stands now, the poor state of the US tobacco industry can be credited to falling interest in tobacco products in the United States, increased foreign competition, and a lack of protectionist policies used by the United States government. Should the issue remain unaddressed the United States could see tobacco growing in the United States become grossly unprofitable and leave countless farmers out of a job. While tobacco products pose a clear and present health concern for those who use them, there still exists a large market for these products. As it relates to tobacco, the main concern for the United States remains whether American tobacco growers can establish themselves as a competitive force in the global market.


Fish Farming Practices
With an increasing demand for seafood that cannot be met with domestic catch and aquaculture the United States continues to rely on foreign imports, however with imported fish comes heavy environmental damage. Like in any industrialized farming operation, fish farming generates an immense amount of waste. While traditional fishing methods are quickly depleting wild fish supplies, it seems that the only option to meet the demand for seafood is to invest in fish farming.� However, with fish farming carrying its own burden of environmental problems, the United States is left to decide whether it is worth it to invest in an industry that will undoubtedly create jobs and revenue, but also possibly hurt the environment or continue to import foreign fish that carries even worse problems.

Armed Services
Topics

Treatment of Enemy Combatants
The United States takes strong stance on their treatment with enemy combatants. The country is consistently criticized for the indefinite detention of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay and for the mistreatment and disorderly conduct associated with interrogating and the torturous actions by some the soldiers. The US feels that because the many attackers in the conflict do not qualify as lawful combatants they are entitled to a military trial and do not receive the rights of prisoners of war.


US Africa Command (AFRICOM)
The United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) was originally designed as a unified combatant command to address the burgeoning strategic importance of the African continent in regards to U.S. security and foreign policy. AFRICOM�s official mission is to �conduct sustained security engagement through military-to-military programs, military-sponsored activities, and other military operations as directed� in order to promote a secure continental environment to further U.S. Policy objectives. Many believe that it represents a shift in American foreign policy from one that emphasizes diplomacy to one that serves its state�s individual ends at the expense of a less developed continent. �Some critics assert that the allocation of humanitarian and developmental tasks to the Department of Defense and State Department confuses and inflates the role the military should play, and amounts to nation-building and neocolonialism.

Budget
Topics

Foreign Aid: Humanitarian and Economic
The United States humanitarian and economic aid system is a complex structure of regional interests and their effects on international economic infrastructure. The U.S. foreign aid budget in this regard has evolved to involve a series of parties including domestic players, recipient nations, and plays a large part in supporting local industry. Several countries have become extremely reliant on American aid projects for continued stability. This topic will explore the practice of allocating humanitarian and economic assistance in the United States, with particular emphasis on medicinal and agricultural programs.


Foreign Aid: Military
Military assistance programs are an important for the United States government to pursue its global geopolitical objectives in the federal budget. �Military aid is a monumental industry that is a major supporter of American strategic interest, and many nations are dependent on U.S. military aid for security, political stability, and pursuing their own regional interests. As an influential military power in the international community it is important that the U.S. consider its role in foreign military aid and the responsibilities that come with engaging in foreign military practices and conflicts in the form of aid.

Education and Labor
Topics

Sexual Health and Education
Sexually transmitted infections (STI�s) are illnesses that have a significant probability of being transmitted between humans through sexual behaviors. �In the past they were referred to as sexually transmitted diseases, however sexually transmitted infections is preferred now because a person can be infected and infect others but not necessarily show signs of disease. There have been numerous campaigns throughout decades in an attempt to prevent the spread of STI�s, but it was until the discovery of antibiotics that treatment for them became an option. �Ever since their emergence, STI�s have been an affair that concerns the international community, especially in an increasingly globalized world, where an issue that affects one nation can impact many others. It is important to consider how the United States can address issues of improving sexual health and education for its residents as part of a larger global initiative to combat HIV/AIDS.


Labor and Immigration
The migration of foreign laborers to the United Stated has been a growing problem that originated with the constant incoming of non-native settlers, searching for better living conditions, in the past couple of centuries. �However, the push caused by poverty, severe insecurity and underdevelopment in certain regions of Mexico and some Asian countries along with the increasing demand for cheap labor in the United States, have reinforced a cycle of constant flow into the US of vulnerable people. �The increase of undocumented foreign workers into the US has not only become an issue regarding uncontrolled immigration, but a matter of addressing the abusive conditions that foreign laborers often face. Immigrant laborers are often subject to exploitative working conditions ranging from insufficient pay and physical hardship, lack of benefits, deportation, and in severe cases debt bondage and forced labor. This topic will look into improving working conditions for migrant workers, while addressing accountability for employers who engage in illegal activity.

Energy and Commerce
Topics


Role of Financial Institutions
The recent financial crisis in the United States resulted from subprime mortgage packages, predatory lending, over-leveraging, high-risk loans and credit practices. The role of financial institutions on domestic and international levels in the United States is undergoing great criticism since the �great recession� of the 2000s because of their role in the financial crisis. The passage of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act in July 2010, which addresses increased transparency in derivatives exchanges, establishes restrictions, and created the Bureau of Consumer Financial protection, has raised political criticism from both Democrats and Republicans. Many Democrats argue that there is not enough regulation to ensure consumer protection and keep a check on financial institutions, while some Republicans feel that these restrictions should be stricter. Exploring the role of financial institutions will include discussing whether there should be a decrease in financial regulation, or whether an increase in the federal regulation of financial institutions would be more beneficial to consumer protection.


Offshore Drilling
Energy independence and security is at the forefront of energy policy debate in the United States. One highly controversial component of the energy policy debate is offshore drilling. Proponents of offshore drilling believe that it can provide a stable supply of oil to Americans despite costly investments to establish permanent offshore drilling sites. Currently, almost sixty per cent of America�s oil supply comes from foreign imports; however the fluctuating prices of foreign oil has led the United States to consider other alternatives for an energy plan. It is important to consider whether the United States should increase their offshore drilling practices, and how will it might America�s economy if there is a decreased dependency on foreign oil imports.

Government Oversight and Reform
Topics

Government Contracts in Iraq
While Private Military Firms (PMFs) have long been a part of the American military system, in recent years their influence and market share has been growing; they are still viewed as a vital source for the American government, especially considering their level of skill and expertise in various areas, their effort to decrease the number of US troops. �While they are needed, their total cost to the government has been unknown since the start of the war, and because of the lack of accountability these companies have, it is difficult to examine their efficiency or penalize them for any wrongdoings under international law.

Corporate Accountability
Corporations seem to be the fuel that powers our nation; when these companies falter, so does the entire national economy. �In the past few years, corporate accountability has become an issue discussed in conjuncture with a variety of industries, but most notably with the financial, insurance, and banking sectors. �As the country continues to recover from our economic downturn, questions are still being asked to find out who is to blame, and whether the federal government should be more involved in holding corporations accountable for their mistakes.

Science and Technology
Topics

Space Policy
U.S. space policy has changed from administration to administration as priorities in exploring space and its potential has changed. Space policy has historically included international cooperation for exploration efforts, scientific discovery, and support for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration�s missions. Because space exploration is an expensive endeavor, space policy receives criticisms concerning its limited potential in improving life on earth. Because it requires international cooperation and economic commitment, it is important for the United States to determine its space policy by defining its interests and willingness to engage in this form of scientific discovery.


Personal Genomics
Sequencing an entire human genome originally took about $50 million and almost fifteen years to fully sequence and publish. Currently, it takes about $20 thousand and about a month. It is predicted that within the next couple of years, both the price and time requirement will both decrease to a point where it is affordable for an average-salaried person to obtain one. Once this happens, governments can introduce health programs regarding obtaining your genome. This can result in two major health contributions: personalized medicine and preventive health services.By sequencing your genome, one can create medicine specifically for the patient by changing some components of the medicine to better work with the individual. Additionally, by sequencing ones genome, one would know better preventative methods to prevent someone who has many risk factors for heart attacks or may develop a neurological disease. However, there are many ethical issues that go along with this such as the personalized medicine ethics, genetic discrimination- enforcement and insurance related, and screening concerns. This topic explores the possibilities of personal genomics and whether the country should invest in this expensive new science.

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