Washington Waves

NMC Works To Mitigate Shutdown Effects On Mariners

Washington, D.C.—The National Maritime Center (NMC) announced several actions to mitigate the impact on mariners of the partial government shutdown.

Merchant Mariner Credentials (MMC) (National Endorsements only) and Medical Certificates that expired in December 2018 or expire in January 2019 are extended as valid until March 31, the NMC stated.

A letter signed by Coast Guard Capt. Kirsten Martin, NMC commanding officer, was provided on the NMC website for mariners to print and carry with their credentials.

Also extended to March 31:

• Additional Information (AI) letters sent to mariners that expired in December 2018 or expire in January 2019; and

• Approval to Test (ATT) letters and mariner training course certificates that expired in December 2018 or expire in January 2019.

For mariners whose 90-day testing cycles were interrupted by Regional Exam Center (REC) closures starting on December 26, the days the RECs are closed will not count against the 90-day period, the NMC said.

 REC appointment calendars will be reopened immediately once appropriations are restored.

Any course approval extension requests can be emailed to NMCCourses@uscg.mil.

“The NMC understands the partial shutdown may affect our industry customers and stakeholders and we apologize for any potential inconvenience,” Martin stated.

“If you have questions, visit the NMC website, or contact the NMC Customer Service Center by using the NMC online chat system, by e-mailingIASKNMC@uscg.mil, or by calling 1-888-IASKNMC (427-5662).”

Again, with no immediate end of the impasse in sight, others are proposing action to address the partial shutdown’s impact.

A bipartisan group of House members introduced a bill to pay members of the U.S. Coast Guard during the shutdown.

“Members of the Coast Guard are the only members of the United States military not being paid for their critical and continuing operations,” the announcement by Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), John Garamendi (D-Calif.) and Brian Mast (R-Fla.) stated.

The Coast Guard falls under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

According to the press release, a companion bill that mirrors the House legislation also has been introduced in the Senate.

Wheeler Nomination

President Donald Trump, who told acting Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler in November he would get that job permanently, made it official by submitting his nomination to the Senate.

Wheeler plays a leading role in pushing Trump’s deregulatory agenda, including the administration’s ongoing effort against the Obama-era Waters of the United States rule.

“I am honored and grateful that President Trump has nominated me to lead the Environmental Protection Agency,” he said.

“For me, there is no greater responsibility than protecting human health and the environment, and I look forward to carrying out this essential task on behalf of the American public.”

A former staff director of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Wheeler’s nomination is expected to generate partisan questions from members of that panel when they conduct a confirmation hearing.

EPW Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) welcomed Wheeler’s nomination, saying he has done an outstanding job leading the agency.

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), the panel’s ranking member, expressed disappointment in Wheeler’s record so far.

“When Andrew Wheeler was first selected to be acting administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, I urged him to restore public trust in the agency by heeding lessons of the past and by remedying some of [previous administrator] Scott Pruitt’s most egregious actions and proposals,” Carper said, citing the issues linked to his predecessor.

“He has not done so.”

Committee Chairmanships

House Democrats have assumed their chairmanships on several key committees whose jurisdictions impact the waterways industry.

Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), now leads the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, with Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), at the Appropriations Committee—the first woman to ever serve as chair of that panel—and Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) at the Homeland Security Committee.

All three had served as ranking members of their respective panels, so their views are well known to the industry.

On the Senate side of the Capitol, the change is much less significant since Republicans retained control of that chamber.

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) became chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee with Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) as its new ranking member.

Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) took the ranking member position on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee while Gary Peters (D-Mich.) assumed that position on the Homeland Security & Government Affairs Committee.

Senate At Full Strength

The Senate returned to full strength with the swearing in of Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), who had delayed taking the oath of office in order to serve out his term as governor.

Scott gave that chamber its 100th member and made its party division official for the 116th Congress.

That partisan split now stands at 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats and two independents who caucus with Democrats.

In the 115th Congress, Senate Republicans numbered 51, the exact number it took to confirm nominations, an important goal to both President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)

So, midterm elections gave Senate Republicans two more seats, a little more cushion for nominations, but rules still require a super-majority of 60 votes to move most significant legislation.