Washington Waves

House Votes To Block Trump’s National Emergency On Border Security

Washington, D.C.—In an unusual rebuke even in these divisive political times, the Democratic-controlled U.S. House voted to block President Donald Trump’s national emergency on border security that some warn could lead eventually to diverting U.S. Army Corps of Engineers civil works funding for construction of a wall Aon the border with Mexico.

That 245-182 vote sends the privileged resolution to the Republican-controlled Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said a vote is expected by the middle of March.

McConnell declined to predict the outcome, acknowledging the level of interest the matter holds for his fellow Republicans.

He also conceded he had not come to a final decision on the legality of the president’s action.

Trump is expected to veto the resolution if it gets to his desk, and even the House fell far short of the two-thirds majority needed to override a veto.

Only 13 House Republicans joined Democrats in approving the resolution.

Trump and congressional Republicans continue to argue that he not only has the authority to declare an emergency, but the situation at the border qualifies as one.

Democrats dismiss that claim and describe the president’s action as an unconstitutional end-run around the power-of-the-purse authority the nation’s founders wanted only Congress to have.

Tariff Hike Delay
President Trump announced a delay in the scheduled hike in U.S. tariffs on China set to kick in on March 1, citing “substantial progress” in trade talks between the two countries.

“Assuming both sides make additional progress, we will be planning a Summit for President Xi and myself at Mar-a-Lago,” Trump tweeted on February 24.

Just days earlier, Kurt Nagle, president and CEO of the American Association of Port Authorities, said on Fox Business News he was encouraged by the direction the trade talks had taken and the impact it would have on the port industry and the nation’s economy.

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) also welcomed the report of progress in the U.S-China trade talks.

Ernst said farmers in her state support the president’s efforts.

“But what I’ve heard from farmers with the Iowa Soybean Association [is] it does keep them up at night,” she added. “They do want to see additional progress on these trade talks. We would like to see them done soon, but we do want a good deal.”

Trump Infrastructure Bill
President Trump told the nation’s governors he wants to sign an infrastructure bill into law, urging them to call their state’s congressional delegations to get it done.

“I am totally ready,” President Trump said. “We are going to work very hard on (infrastructure) because as governors, that has to be music to your ears.”

Meanwhile, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, with a bipartisan tradition that is expected to boost its role in passing a major infrastructure package, held a hearing on the impact of climate change that showed how divided lawmakers remain on that specific issue.

Wheeler Confirmation
The U.S. Senate voted 52 to 47 to confirm the nomination of Andrew Wheeler as the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Moderate Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) voted against confirmation.

Collins cited what she saw as EPA’s efforts to halt progress on eliminating pollutants such as greenhouse gases and mercury, and Manchin cited the agency’s lack of progress on clean air and drinking water issues.

Wheeler took over as acting EPA head after embattled Administrator Scott Pruitt resigned amid a number of ethical questions.

He has followed Pruitt’s lead on the deregulation front, a top issue for President Trump.

That effort includes the bid by EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to replace the controversial 2015 Waters of the United States rule of the Obama administration.

GLAB Nominations
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is seeking nominations for the Great Lakes Advisory Board (GLAB).

Re-established in December 2018, GLAB provides advice to EPA’s administrator on matters related to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the implementation of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement between the United States and Canada.

Nominations must be dated by March 25 with selection of GLAB members anticipated by this summer.

For additional information, contact Edlynzia Barnes at 312-886-6249.

DERA Grant Deadline
A deadline for applications seeking grant funding for the Diesel Emissions Reductions Act (DERA) Clean Diesel Funding Assistance Program has been extended to March 26 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

EPA anticipates awarding roughly $40 million in competitive grant funding.

Marine engines and equipment used in handling of cargo at ports are among those eligible for the program.

“The Program is soliciting applications nationwide for projects that achieve significant reductions in diesel emissions in terms of tons of pollution produced and exposure, particularly from fleets operating in areas designated by the Administrator as poor air quality areas,” EPA stated.

NMC Question Review Process
The National Maritime Center has posted an updated outline on the process to join a working group commissioned by the U.S. Coast Guard to review merchant mariner examination questions this year.

“Examination question review is an opportunity to help the National Maritime Center (NMC) and your fellow mariners make long-term improvements to the knowledge examination system,” Coast Guard Capt. K.R. Martin said in a statement.

“We need your expertise. Let your voice be heard.”

For additional information, contact the NMC Customer Service Center at 1-888-427-5662.

GAO Recommendations
The U.S. Coast Guard needs to use leading practices in managing its shore infrastructure backlog to predict outcomes of maintenance projects and optimize among competing investments, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) recommended.

That recommendation was one of six GAO made after it was asked to review the Coast Guard’s management of its 20,000-plus shore facilities such as piers, docks, boat stations, air stations and housing units at more than 2,700 locations.

GAO cited Coast Guard’s 2017 testimony to Congress that it had a $1.6 billion recapitalization backlog on shore infrastructure that had a replacement value of roughly $20 billion.

GAO reported the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Coast Guard’s parent agency, agreed to implement its recommendations.

FMC Publishes Decisions
The Federal Maritime Commission announced it has published on its website, FMC.gov, the first volume of Decisions of the FMC, Second Series.

“This publication provides a compendium of Initial and Final Decisions of the Commission and selected orders that may be significant or establish a new legal precedent,” the FMC stated.

“The report will be published periodically throughout the year on the Commission’s Documents and Proceedings page.”

For additional information, contact Rachel Dickon at 202-523-5725.

EAB To Be Re-Established
The Environmental Advisory Board (EAB), which has provided guidance to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for 50 years, will be terminated with its functions re-established as a permanent subcommittee of the U.S. Army Science Board later this year.

That decision was part of an effort by the Army to streamline operations, according to the Corps.

Operating as a “discretionary” Federal Advisory Committee since 1970, the Corps explained, EAB was never established under a congressional mandate.

Most notable of the EAB’s accomplishments was the establishment of Environmental Operating Principles, the Corps stated.