Washington Waves
Washington Waves

Congress Gets Back To Work With Appropriations, Impeachment Agenda

Washington, D.C.—Both chambers of Congress are scheduled to end a two-week recess Tuesday and return to the U.S. Capitol to face a challenging agenda topped by a historic impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump and his actions on having a foreign nation investigate a top political rival.

For some, however, a more immediate concern will be whether lawmakers’ return to their legislative duties will put the 2020 appropriations process back on track.

They face a deadline of November 21 when the current stopgap spending measure that is keeping the federal government funded and open expires.

In addition to declaring the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ coastal navigation budget a “big winner” in the agency’s appropriations bill, Susan Monteverde, vice president-government relations of the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA), took an upbeat view about that process in her monthly column.

“We expect the Corps bill to be enacted before November 21, when the continuing resolution ends,” Monteverde wrote.

She also used her column to encourage AAPA members to help build congressional support for the Port Infrastructure Development Grant program, which faces significant cuts in both the House and Senate bills.

Funding for the Corps is included in a package of four appropriations bills that was expected to be a subject of negotiations during the break.

Trade Talks

While much of the news coming out of the nation’s capital focused on the growing impeachment impasse pitting the White House against congressional Democrats, several significant developments occurred on the trade front.

President Trump signed a much-anticipated U.S.-Japan trade agreement.

Trump called the agreement a game-changer for U.S. farmers and ranchers, adding the deal will provide them with enhanced access to a critical foreign market.

 Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, attended the White House event and called the agreement great news for U.S. agriculture and its fourth-largest export market.

“This agreement means sharply lower tariffs on our farm and ranch exports with the promise of more to come,” Duvall said.

“We hope the momentum from this win carries through to the negotiations with China this week.”

U.S.-China trade negotiations were set to begin again with Chinese Vice Premier Lie He, his nation’s top negotiator, returning to Washington.

“The two sides will look to build on the deputy-level talks of the past weeks,” the White House press secretary stated.

Leading up to the next round of talks, Trump once again offered comments that covered all the bases.

“The relationship is very good,” he said of U.S. and China.

“As to whether or not we make a deal, I don’t know. But there’s certainly a good possibility.”

The administration also continued its push for USMCA, the trade agreement with the U.S., Mexico and Canada as a successor to NAFTA.

“I came to Iowa today to turn up the heat,” Vice President Mike Pence said during a visit to the Hawkeye state to pressure the Democratic-controlled House to schedule a vote on the agreement.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calf.) continues to offer assurances that progress is being made on USMCA as Democrats address their concerns, including strong enforcement and environmental protections.

WOTUS

The Environmental Protection Agency said it anticipates having its new Waters of the United States (WOTUS) definition in place by this winter.

That prediction came as EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler participated in a WOTUS roundtable in North Dakota along with members of that state’s congressional delegation and other state leaders.

Wheeler used the event to tout his agency’s years-long effort to kill a controversial WOTUS rule put in place in 2015 by the Obama administration and replace it with a rule that it says will provide a clear definition of where federal jurisdiction begins and ends under the Clean Water Act.

“I learned firsthand that waters and wetlands in over 90 percent of the state’s land mass would have fallen under federal purview with the 2015 rule,” he said, adding that “many potholes across North Dakota would have likely fallen under federal control.”

Step 1 of the effort by EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to repeal the 2015 rule will take effect 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register. It also recodifies the regulatory text that existed prior to the 2015 rule.

“The agency anticipates finalizing the Step 2 rule this winter,” the agency stated.

Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), who led the roundtable discussion that drew stakeholders and local leaders, said: “Writing a new rule which works for our farmers, businesses and local governments is a critical issue, not just for North Dakota, but for our country.”

PFD Recall

The Coast Guard’s Inspections and Compliance Directorate issued Marine Safety Alert 11-19  to mariners that Marlin Australia PTY, Ltd., has recalled personal flotation devices (PFD) due to a label error involving incorrect minimum buoyant forces on adult and child models.

According to that posting, the recall involved lot 14442C1.

Marlin also has issued a recall notice on its website at www.marlin.com.au.

“Starting June 19, 2019, all Model 320RT and Model 321RT PFDs have been manufactured with the correct labels,” the posting stated.

Recalled devices in the U.S. should be returned to Land’n Sea Distributing in Pompano Beach, Fla. To contact Land’n Sea Distributing, call 1-954-792-9971 (x1071) or email Phillipe.indekue@landnsea.com.

For additional information, contact Marlin at +61 2 9557 3999 or sales@marlin.com, and questions or comments regarding the recall also may be emailed to the Coast Guard at HQS-PF-fldr-CG-INV@uscg.mil.

FMC Regulatory Changes

The Federal Maritime Commission is requesting comments on revising its delegations to the Bureau of Enforcement, procedures for initiating enforcement action to facilitate its oversight and regulations to implement the Frank LoBiondo Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2018.

Those regulatory changes deal with commission meetings, ocean transportation intermediary licensing, financial responsibility, general duties and the submission of comments on ocean common carrier and marine terminal operator agreements.

Comments for all requests must be filed by November 8.

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

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