112th Congress

Accomplishments in the Senate: 1993-2021

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 112th Congress (2011-2012)

Accomplishments in 2012:

Strengthening national intelligence. Since assuming the chairmanship of the Senate Intelligence Committee in January 2009, Senator Feinstein took a leading role in enacting three consecutive Intelligence Authorization bills following a six-year span without reauthorization legislation. These bills are crucial tools to improve oversight of the U.S. Intelligence Community, take steps to prepare the Intelligence Community for smaller budgets and personnel decreases in the coming years, and requiring implementation of threat detection programs to prevent security breaches of classified systems, such as the WikiLeaks disclosures. A fourth authorization bill, for fiscal year 2013, has been approved by the Intelligence Committee and is awaiting Senate consideration.

Maximizing fuel efficiency. In August 2012, the Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency released finalized standards mandating an increase in average fleet-wide fuel economy for light duty vehicles to the equivalent of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. This “maximum feasible” standard was a key component of the Ten-in-Ten Fuel Economy Act, drafted by Senators Feinstein and Olympia Snowe and included in the 2007 energy bill.

Safeguarding spent nuclear fuel. As chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water, Senator Feinstein served as a vocal proponent in 2012 for the development of a national nuclear waste strategy for the country’s nuclear energy plants. She included a provision in the FY 2013 Energy and Water Appropriations bill that would provide the Department of Energy with the authority to initiate a pilot program for a consolidated storage facility. That bill, approved by the Subcommittee in April 2012, will be negotiated with the House of Representatives in early 2013.

Enhancing the safety of underground pipelines. In January 2012, the Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act (H.R. 2845) was signed into law. The bill addressed safety concerns about the 2.5 million miles of oil, natural gas and hazardous liquid pipelines in the United States and reflected many of the safety, inspection and enforcement provisions included in an earlier bill introduced by Senators Feinstein and Boxer in the wake of the tragic 2010 natural gas explosion in San Bruno, Calif. Became law on January 3, 2012 (P.L. 112-90).

Maximizing California’s water supplies. As chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water, Senator Feinstein included provisions in the Subcommittee’s bill to require the Bureau of Reclamation to develop plans to provide additional water to Central Valley Project contractors in dry years and to work with contractors to develop individualized drought management plans. The bill also gives Reclamation the ability to work with local water districts to expedite completion of water storage feasibility studies and urges the Department of the Interior to expeditiously review applications for water transfers. The FY 2013 bill was approved by the Appropriations Committee in April 2012 and will be negotiated with the House in early 2013.

Supporting the federal bench in California. In 2011 and 2012, the Senate confirmed four District Judges recommended by Senator Feinstein: Judge Edward M. Chen, Judge John A. Kronstadt, Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers and Judge Cathy Ann Bencivengo. Two additional nominees recommended by Senator Feinstein await Senate approval: Judge Fernando M. Olguin (approved by the Judiciary Committee by voice vote) and Judge Troy L. Nunley (confirmation hearing held in September 2012). Senator Feinstein is also working to enact the Emergency Judicial Relief Act, which would add four new federal judgeships to California’s Eastern District, the busiest district in the nation.

Modernizing California’s transportation infrastructure. Senator Feinstein authored three provisions in the MAP-21 legislation, a two year reauthorization of federal surface transportation programs (became law on July 6, 2012 (P.L. 112-141):

  • Reducing red tape for transportation projects: The bill adopts several provisions delegating federal environmental review responsibilities to the state for railroad, transit and multimodal projects. This measure expands am initiative that has already been successful in reducing permitting times for California road projects by an average of 18 months.
  • Improving safety for long-haul truckers. The bill required trucks to install electronic onboard recorders to record hours of service, making sure truckers accurately record their hours driving and receive proper rest.
  • Improving BART. At BART’s request, the bill includes an amendment from Senator Feinstein allowing transit systems to sign seven-year contracts for rail cars instead of five-year contracts, which will save BART more than $100 million in its rail car replacement program.

Supporting and promoting innovation in California. Senator Feinstein successfully fought to get a Patent and Trademark Office satellite office located in California. The satellite office, which was approved for Silicon Valley on July 2, 2012, will lower costs for businesses and researchers in California, help speed innovative products to market, create new jobs for Californians and boost California's role as a world-leading center of innovation.

Protecting U.S. borders against drug smuggling. Legislation introduced by Senator Feinstein to combat illegal tunnel activity on the southwest border of the United States was signed into law in June 2012. The Border Tunnel Prevention Act (S. 1236) provides law enforcement and prosecutors additional tools to locate tunnels, identify criminals and punish those involved in illegal activity. Became law on June 5, 2012 (P.L. 112-127).

Providing homeowners with affordable flood insurance. Senator Feinstein authored a provision in the National Flood Insurance Program reauthorization that will help to reduce flood insurance rates for homeowners in California. The Feinstein provision allows residents behind locallyfunded levees to qualify for the same insurance discounts as residents residing behind federally funded levees, and incentivizes local jurisdictions to invest in flood control infrastructure. The flood insurance reauthorization was enacted as part of the surface transportation extension bill (H.R. 4348) on July 6, 2012. (P.L. 112-141).

Stabilizing home values. Senator Feinstein in May 2012 introduced the Expanding Refinancing Opportunities Act, a bill that would help millions of Americans (1.3 million in California) take advantage of low mortgage rates by refinancing with FHA insurance even if their loans are private and not backed by the government. In October 2011, an amendment supported by Senator Feinstein to extend limits for home loans guaranteed by the Federal Housing Administration was adopted by the Senate and signed into law. The amendment returns home loan limits to higher levels, allowing homebuyers to secure financing and fending off further drops in home values.

Holding terrorists accountable. In July 2012, Senator Feinstein introduced legislation directing the State Department to designate the Haqqani Network as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO). She also wrote to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton making the case for such a designation. On September 7, 2012, Secretary Clinton officially designated the Haqqani Network as an FTO. This action makes it harder for the Haqqani Network to raise funds and operate businesses and creates new risks for anyone working with the group.

Standing by the people of Burma. A one-year renewal of the U.S. import ban on Burma—introduced by Senators Feinstein and Mitch McConnell—was enacted in August 2012. The ban, first put in place in 2003 and extended each year, is intended to push the country’s ruling military regime to support human rights and other freedoms for its people. The bill was signed into law on August 10, 2012 (P.L. 112-163). Senator Feinstein also spoke at the September 19, 2012, ceremony to present Aung San Suu Kyi with the Congressional Gold Medal. The award was initially approved in a Feinstein-McConnell bill in 2008.

Preventing decreases in SCAAP funding. Senator Feinstein succeeded in delaying a pending change to cut reimbursements from the Justice Department to local governments in California for incarcerating criminal aliens under the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program. In response to urging from Senator Feinstein and others, the Justice Department placed a one-year hold on the new policy.

Accomplishments in 2011:

Enforcing Constitutional protections for U.S. citizens. Senator Feinstein in December 2011 introduced the Due Process Guarantee Act (S. 2003), a bill to ensure American citizens apprehended inside the United States cannot be indefinitely detained by the military. The bill states that a Congressional authorization for military force does not authorize the indefinite detention—without charge or trial—of U.S. citizens who are apprehended domestically.

Fighting for equal rights. In March 2011, Senator Feinstein introduced the Respect for Marriage Act. The bill would repeal the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act, a law that denies more than 1,100 federal benefits, rights and privileges to legally married, same-sex couples. In July, the first-ever hearing was held on this legislation before the Senate Judiciary Committee. And in November, the Judiciary Committee took a historic vote to advance the bill to the full Senate for consideration.

Restoring Lake Tahoe. Senator Feinstein in March 2011 introduced the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act of 2011, a bill to help restore Lake Tahoe and the Tahoe Basin and protect the region from a number of threats. The bill authorizes $415 million over 10 years to improve water clarity, reduce the threat of fire, and restore the environment. This bill builds on the success of the first Lake Tahoe Restoration Act, which became law in October 2000. That bill authorized $300 million in federal funds over 10 years for a range of projects to help restore the Lake Tahoe Basin.

Responsible energy policy. In June 2011, 73 Senators voted in favor of a Feinstein amendment to eliminate subsidies for domestic ethanol and tariffs on foreign ethanol. For years the federal government handed out billions of taxpayer dollars to oil companies to use ethanol, even though that use is also mandated by law. While a final deal to repeal subsidies in 2011 fell through, neither the subsidies nor the tariff were renewed by Congress after years of enforcement.

Protecting the Mojave Desert. Senator Dianne Feinstein in January 2011 introduced the California Desert Protection Act of 2011, a bill that would set aside new lands in the Mojave Desert for conservation, recreation and other purposes. Among other provisions, the bill would create the Mojave Trails National Monument (encompassing 941,000 acres of federal land) and the Sand to Snow National Monument (encompassing 134,000 acres of federal land). Senator Feinstein was the author of the original California Desert Protection Act in 1994, a bill that protected more than 7 million acres of pristine California desert and established the Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Parks and the East Mojave Natural Preserve.

Standing by the people of Burma. A one-year renewal of the U.S. import ban on Burma—introduced by Senators Feinstein and Mitch McConnell—was passed in September 2011. The ban, first put in place in 2003, is intended to push the country’s ruling military regime to support human rights and other freedoms for its people.

Lowering health care costs. Senator Feinstein in January 2011 introduced the Health Insurance Rate Review Act, a bill to give the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services authority to deny or modify health insurance premiums or rate increases found to be excessive, unjustified or unfairly discriminatory. While continuing to work on passage in the Senate, Senator Feinstein also advocated for similar legislation in California. That bill passed the state Assembly and two Senate committees, but ultimately failed to be enacted.

Improving California’s water infrastructure. In 2011, Senator Feinstein took over as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water. In that role, Senator Feinstein included several provisions to improve California’s water supply infrastructure in the omnibus federal funding bill, signed into law in December 2011. The bill provided the Department of the Interior with additional authority to participate in water banking programs and facilitated water transfers to help improve water deliveries to water contractors. She was also instrumental in increasing the Army Corps of Engineers budget by $145 million, ensuring that additional vital water infrastructure projects—including levee and dam repair and river restoration—could be completed.

Keeping nuclear plants safe. Senator Feinstein’s FY 2012 Energy and Water Appropriations bill included a range of provisions to advance nuclear safety in the wake of the Fukushima disaster in Japan. Her bill directed the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to implement recommendations from the Fukushima Near Term Task Force, including a key recommendation that seismic threats at nuclear plants be reassessed to ensure their safety. The bill also directed the Department of Energy to develop a strategy for the management of spent nuclear fuel and other nuclear waste and apply other lessons learned from the Fukushima disaster. The Energy and Water bill was rolled into the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act (H.R. 2055) and became law on December 23, 2011 (P.L. 112-74).

Reducing homelessness among veterans. Senator Feinstein authored a provision in broader legislation that authorized the Department of Veterans Affairs to renovate the West Los Angeles VA campus to better accommodate homeless veterans and programs that serve this vulnerable population. Appropriations for the project had been previously secured in 2010 thanks to Senator Feinstein’s leadership on the Senate Appropriations Committee. The Veterans Health Care Facilities Capital Improvement Act became law on October 5, 2011 (P.L. 112-37).

Increasing Customs and Border Protection staffing at LAX. In 2011, Senator Feinstein successfully fought to increase the number of Customs and Border Protection agents at the Los Angeles International Airport. CBP’s decision to add more officers in 2012 and relocate senior managers to oversee the daily operations within the airport improved travel for thousands of passengers.

Reauthorizing the Breast Cancer Research Stamp. Senator Feinstein, the original sponsor of the Breast Cancer Research Stamp, authored a bill to extend the sale of this special stamp for four more years (to the end of 2015). Since first going on sale in 1998, the stamp has raised nearly $75 million for breast cancer research – more than any other fund-raising stamp. Signed into law on December 23, 2011 (P.L. 112-80).

Protecting fragile lands. Senator Feinstein in January 2011 introduced two bills to protect and restore fragile northern California lands.

    • The San Francisco Bay Restoration Act would authorize 10 years of funding for the Environmental Protection Agency to continue wetlands restoration projects and improve water quality in the San Francisco Bay and its watershed.
  • The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Heritage Area Act would create California’s first National Heritage Area—to be managed by the Delta Protection Commission—with the goal of protecting the Delta and its communities, resources and history. The bill will have no effect on water rights or water contracts and creates no new regulatory authority or burden on local government or citizens.

Safeguarding consumer data. In September 2011, Senator Feinstein’s Data Breach Notification Act was approved by the Judiciary Committee. Her bill requires prompt notification of American consumers when sensitive, identifiable information (including Social Security numbers, passwords and credit card account numbers) is breached and made available to unauthorized users. The bill awaits consideration of the full Senate.

Protecting young children from harmful chemicals. Senator Feinstein in January 2011 introduced legislation to establish a federal ban on the chemical bisphenol A (BPA) in baby bottles, sippy cups, baby food and infant formula. In the wake of heavy pressure by Senator Feinstein, the chemical industry in October 2011 announced that BPA is no longer used in baby bottles or sippy cups sold in the United States. Senator Feinstein is continuing her push for a broad ban on BPA.