Washington Waves
Washington Waves

Washington Waves: November 26, 2018

Washington, D.C.—President Donald Trump told acting U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler that he “is going to be made permanent.”

“He’s done a fantastic job, and I want to congratulate him,” Trump told a White House audience, including Wheeler, waiting to see the president  award the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Trump’s heads-up immediately triggered partisan reaction from key members of Congress

“Andrew Wheeler is the perfect choice to lead the EPA,” said U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), a former chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee who now heads up its Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

“He worked for me for 14 years, has an impeccable reputation and the first-hand knowledge and experience to lead the EPA.”

Inhofe also expressed confidence Wheeler will continue to push a deregulatory agenda.

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), ranking member of the committee, said the panel should look at Wheeler’s record as acting administrator “to see if any improvements have been made at the agency since he took the helm.”

Carper already has concluded that while Wheeler is better than his immediate predecessor, Scott Pruitt, he falls short of former administrators, William Ruckelshaus and Christine Todd Whitman, who also served under Republican presidents.

Wheeler became acting EPA administrator in July when Pruitt resigned amid multiple allegations surrounding his leadership of the agency.

Another member of the committee, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I), served notice he would use the confirmation process to delve into Wheeler’s record, specifically his ties to regulated industries.

“I hoped Scott Pruitt’s policy dirty work would dry up after he left the EPA in disgrace,” Whitehouse said.

Cybersecurity Agency

President Trump signed H.R. 3359 into law that will create a new agency within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to lead the federal civilian response to cybersecurity threats.

“We’ve had many, many threats against our nation,” Trump said at the bill-signing ceremony.

“Cyber is going to be the newest form.”

He said the staff of the new Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency will partner with the private sector to defend critical parts of the national economy.

House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said the new agency will streamline and operationalize the current structure of the National Protection and Programs Directorate.

“From state-sponsored hacking to brand name breaches, our enemies are carrying out major cyber-attacks with increased frequency,” McCaul said.

He said the changes called for in his landmark legislation will improve the security of federal networks and critical infrastructure.

 Harbor Maintenance Tax

U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), expected to be the next chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in the new Congress, plans to put forward a bill to spend the Harbor Maintenance Tax revenue on harbor maintenance, an issue he has worked on for more than 20 years.

“That one should be easy, no-brainer,” DeFazio said on C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers.”

He recalled that such a bill previously passed out of the House committee unanimously, only to be blocked by the Republican leadership from advancing to the full House.

Keeping with a schedule established in recent years, DeFazio said another two-year water resources development bill also is on his agenda and referred to the next six-year transportation bill, which is due October 1, 2020.

He conceded funding for that legislation falls outside his committee’s jurisdiction but went on to suggest that dedicating part of a tax gas or some other kind of revenue increase to bonding might be the way to go in generating more funding in the short term.

DeFazio also expressed hope in getting an infrastructure bill out of the House by the middle of the year, but again conceded that effort would include several committees.

Leadership Race

A publicly confident House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters she has the votes to become the next speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

“Yes,” the California Democrat said on Thursday when asked “if the election were held today on the House floor, do you have the votes to be elected speaker?”

During that same press conference, she welcomed the possibility of a challenge from Rep. Marcia Fudge of Ohio.

“I say it to everybody: Come on in; the water is warm,” she said.

A number of Pelosi’s fellow Democrats who want to block her from becoming speaker again suggest they will have the necessary votes once the newly elected members take the oath of office in early January.

Infrastructure Webinars

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has scheduled two stakeholder webinars on November 27 and 29  to provide an update on its work to revitalize the nation’s infrastructure.

“Our activities as part of the administration’s Infrastructure Initiative have been incorporated into a broader “Revolutionize USACE Civil Works” effort to transform how we deliver infrastructure for the nation through authorized Civil Works projects and the permitting of non-USACE projects,” the Corps stated on its website.

Both webinars are scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. EST.

Web addresses are identical for both days: https://www.webmeeting.att.com, with meeting number 511-468-2337 and participant code 142264.

For audio on November 27, use dial-in number 888-431-3632, access code  9965695 and security code (if requested) 1234.

On November 29, use dial-in number 888-240-3210, access code 7351665 and security code (if requested) 1234.