Washington Waves
Washington Waves

Leaders Reach Two-Year Budget Agreement

Washington, D.C.—Members of the waterways industry welcomed a two-year budget agreement announced by President Donald Trump and quickly endorsed by top congressional leaders from both parties.

“We look forward to Senate passage of the FY 20 Energy and Water Appropriations bill and a final agreement with the House before the start of the new fiscal year on October 1,” said Mike Toohey, president and CEO of Waterways Council Inc.

In applauding negotiators for reaching the agreement, Toohey singled out one crucial outcome: preventing the need for stopgap funding measures.

Such temporary continuing resolutions remain unpopular for both government agencies and their stakeholders that depend upon their programs, because they keep improvements from being implemented.

Susan Monteverde, vice president of government relations for the American Association of Port Authorities, also congratulated the leaders for reaching a deal that not only covers budgets for the next two years but also avoids sequestration, which one key appropriator warned could have led to catastrophic spending cuts later this year.

Monteverde pointed out the spending figures in the budget agreement differ from those used by House when advancing their versions of the annual appropriations bills, and those differences will have an impact as the Senate, which delayed their bills until the budget deal was reached, now begins its process.

Despite the bipartisan agreement on overall spending, she predicted a fight when individual programs within agencies began competing with each other for funding.

According to the announcement by top officials, figures for defense spending go from $716 billion in the current fiscal year to $738 billion in fiscal year 2020 and $740.5 billion in fiscal year 2021.

Nondefense spending climbs from the current $605 billion to $632 billion in fiscal year 2020 and $634.5 billion in fiscal year 2021.

Increases in defense spending were a priority for Republicans while hikes in nondefense were pushed by Democrats.

In another significant development, the agreement also covers lifting the debt ceiling until 2021, taking away the concern of a possible default.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who worked out the agreement with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, is expected to schedule a floor vote on it by the end of this week with a vote in the Senate to follow next week before the start of the annual August recess.

Coast Guard Reauthorization

The U.S. House approved a bill reauthorizing funding for the Coast Guard and the Federal Maritime Commission with provisions to boost the shipbuilding industry, promote a modern maritime transportation system and reaffirm support for the Jones Act.

Passed by a voice vote, H.R. 3409 now moves to the Senate.

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, expressed disappointment over budget rules that kept his provision, ensuring members of the Coast Guard get paid during a future government shutdown, out of the House-passed version, vowing to keep fighting for that provision.

Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio), ranking member of the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee, pointed to provisions that strengthen Coast Guard protections of coastal and inland waterways.

The American Waterways Operators (AWO) welcomed the House passage of the bill, saying it includes several provisions vital to the well-being of the U.S. tugboat, towboat and barge industry.

Crediting the bipartisan support for the bill, AWO called for its enactment “with all deliberate speed.”

Deregulation

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), speaking as chairman of the Senate Republican Conference at a recent press event, praised the Trump administration’s success in not only keeping President Trump’s campaign promise for eliminating two regulations for every new one created but exceeding it.

For every one new regulation, Barrasso said the administration has eliminated 13 existing ones.

He was echoing comments of Russ Vought, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, who shared that update at a recent Heritage Foundation event.

Vought put the cost savings at $33 billion.

He described Trump as passionate about the deregulatory efforts, which he launched in the early days of his administration.

“We are doing really well on that front,” Vought said.

China Trade Talks

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer will travel to China at President Trump’s direction to continue trade negotiations, the White House announced.

Vice Premier Liu He will lead the talks for China, which are scheduled to begin July 30 in Shanghai.

“The discussions will cover a range of issues, including intellectual property, forced technology transfer, non-tariff barriers, agriculture, services, the trade deficit, and enforcement,” the White House stated.

Mnuchin had indicated that a trip to China would be possible if recent talks in Washington resulted in “significant progress.”

Training Centers 

The Maritime Administration (MarAd) is seeking comments on guidance implementing its new program to designate eligible training entities as Centers of Excellence for Domestic Maritime Workforce Training and Education (CoE).

“CoE designations will serve to assist the maritime industry in obtaining and maintaining the highest quality workforce,” MarAd stated.

Comments must be received by September 17.

After considering all comments, MarAd will publish the final CoE Program Policy in the Federal Register and on itswebsitewww.marad.dot.gov/CoE.

For additional information, contact Nuns Jain at 757-322-5801.

Korean Meetings

Maritime Administrator Mark Buzby and Federal Maritime Commissioner Louis Sola attended the recent U.S.-Republic of Korea Bilateral Maritime Meetings in Busan, Korea.

According to a Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) press release, Buzby led the U.S. delegation that also included representatives of the U.S. Department of State and the Coast Guard.

Sola addressed the current competitive outlook of the ocean shipping industry and the reduction of global carriers since 2016. He also reviewed the process the commission uses to monitor the ocean carrier and marine terminal operator agreements.

Other topic discussed included the IMO 2020 compliance strategies, LNG carrier issues, mariner training and the possible expansion of U.S. flag car carrier operations.

According to the FMC, the U.S. delegation also met with the Korean Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries.

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