U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Senator Rand Paul, R-Ky., as well as Senators Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ari., recently announced the introduction of the Federal Prisons Accountability Act of 2019, which would bring further accountability to our nation’s federal prisons by requiring the Director of the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Currently, the BOP director has significant budget authority over taxpayer dollars without their appointment having been subject to confirmation by the Senate. Unlike most U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) administrators and directors, the Director of BOP is appointed by the U.S. Attorney General — not the President — without Senate consideration.

The Federal Prisons Accountability Act of 2019 would require the BOP Director to be appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate. The bipartisan legislation would also designate that any newly confirmed Director would have one, 10-year term at the helm of the BOP.

“The Senate is in the personnel business, responsible for evaluating the qualifications of more than a thousand of a president’s nominees to staff the federal government. The Director of the Bureau of Prisons, in charge of over 36,000 employees and a multi-billion dollar budget, should be subject to the Senate’s consideration and confirmation,” McConnell sad in a release.

McConnell said the the bipartisan legislation extending the Senate’s advice and consent over this position can increase transparency and accountability at the BOP and help protect federal corrections officers, including hundreds of Kentuckians, from harm.

“No agency as large as the Bureau of Prisons should have so little accountability. Our bill will ensure the concerns of those who work in the prisons are heard and acted upon. It will also ensure the small businesses affected by competition from the bureau have their voices heard,” Paul said in the release.

The BOP director supervises workers at federal prisons across the country who protect the public under hazardous conditions at correctional facilities on a daily basis. The legislation would support subjecting the director to the same congressional review as other top law enforcement agency chiefs within DOJ, such as the FBI and ATF Directors and the DEA Administrator, according to the release.

Barr re-introduces horse racing investment bill

Congressman Andy Barr re-introduced the Race Horse Cost Recovery Act (H.R. 4786) recently, legislation that would make the three-year depreciation schedule permanent for race horses, regardless of their age when put into service. This reform is needed as it confronts the unique realities those in the horse racing industry face and better reflects the useful life of the race horse, according to a release from his office.

“As the co-chair of the Congressional Horse Caucus, I consistently fight for legislation that encourages growth and investment in the equine industry,” Barr said in a release. "Kentucky’s signature horse industry is not only essential to the history and culture of the Commonwealth, but also to our economy. It is vital that we pass this legislation to put investing in our equine athletes on a level playing field with other investments."

Barr’s legislation is endorsed by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association and the American Horse Council.

Barr introduces bill to counter Russian Malign Influence in Europe

Congressman Andy Barr recently introduced H.R.4818, the Protecting Europe’s Energy Security Act of 2019, to impose sanctions on entities involved in the construction of the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline — a project being supported by Russia to spread its malign influence into Europe.

“The energy security of our European partners and allies has been a longstanding strategic priority for the United States. The Protecting Europe’s Energy Security Act of 2019 (PEESA) would work to stop the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline and ensure Russia does not continue to undermine the energy security of our NATO allies in Europe,” said Barr in a release. “The Nord Stream 2 pipeline is not a commercial project, but rather a political tool that seeks to deepen European dependence on Russian energy resources.”

H.R. 4818 would impose sanctions targeting pipe-laying vessels and foreign entities essential to the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in the Baltic Sea. This bill denies entry into the U.S. to individuals who provided assistance to Nord Stream 2 pipe-laying vessels used for certain Russian energy exports. Additionally, it would give the President the authority to impose sanctions on entities providing financial services and insurance to pipe-laying companies supporting certain Russian energy exports. PEESA also tasks the Administration with developing a strategy to improve the national and regional energy security of U.S. allies in Europe.

H.R. 4818 is cosponsored by Rep. Garret Graves (LA-06), Rep. John Shimkus (IL-15), Rep. Greg Murphy (NC-3), Rep. Jim Hagedorn (MN-1), Rep. Paul Mitchell (MI-10), and Rep. Bill Huizenga (MI-02) and is the House companion to S. 1441.

Jonathan Greene is the editor of The Register; follow him on Twitter @jgreeneRR.

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