Washington Waves
Washington Waves

Stopgap Measure Funds Government Through December 20

Washington, D.C.—Congressional leaders reached an agreement to pass another stopgap measure to keep the federal government funded through December 20.

While that agreement presents a positive development for letting the government avoid a shutdown, it also puts off key decisions for the fiscal year 2020 appropriations cycle, which began October 1.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters “serious negotiations” are going on to come up with an agreement on funding levels for the various areas of government.

Schumer expressed confidence the December 20 date was a realistic deadline for reaching a consensus on those issues that now separate the two parties and hope those negotiations can be left to members of the Senate and House Appropriations committees.

He did not mention one of the other major stumbling blocks: President Donald Trump’s request for funding to pay for the “wall” he wants to build on the U.S. border with Mexico.

If approved by both houses of Congress and signed into law by the president, the new continuing resolution (CR) will get the government past the current funding deadline of November 21 as well as the Thanksgiving holiday.

But, if the budget talks remain at an impasse, the next funding deadline could come about the same time the House may be voting on impeachment.

Even without such historic drama, CRs generally frustrate federal agencies.

Not only do they keep current funding levels in place, but they usually do not allow meaningful policy changes to existing programs or the start-up of new programs.

Those served by those agencies also dislike the uncertainty that comes with such temporary measures.

In an alert to its members, the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) reported it was tracking funding for port-related programs such as DERA (Diesel Emissions Reduction Act), BUILD (Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development), INFRA (Infrastructure For Rebuilding America) and CRISI (Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements).

Previously, AAPA expressed concern that a Senate minibus would slash funding significantly for the Maritime Administration’s Port Infrastructure Development Program, and is seeking support to increase funding for that program.

Trade Deal Phase 1

President Donald Trump told the Economic Club of New York that Phase 1 of a trade deal with China could happen soon.

“We’re close,” Trump said.

Later, in response to a question about the negative impact the trade war has had on U.S. businesses, the president not only defended his approach but warned of even higher tariffs if talks between the two economic giants fail.

“If we don’t make a deal, we’re going to substantially raise those tariffs.” he said.

During his remarks, Trump also gave his administration a shout out for the “biggest, boldest, and most ambitious campaign” to cut regulations.

“Nobody has come close to doing what we’ve done with regulations,” he said.

Within the next six months, Trump said his order requiring the elimination of two regulations for every new one created will end up killing close to 20 existing regulations for every new one.

He singled out his administration’s bid to end the “ridiculous Waters of the United States rule” of 2015.

Published in October, the so-called Step 1 of the effort against that Obama-era rule is to take effect December 23 with Step 2, which is to include a new definition of where federal jurisdiction begins and ends under the Clean Water Act, expected to be completed this winter.

BUILD Grants

Port projects in several states were among those awarded funding as part of a $900-million BUILD (Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development) grant announcement by U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.

Those included the Port of Alaska modernization project, $25 million; Massachusetts Port Authority to expand capacity at Conley Container Terminal and construct a Cypher-E freight corridor in South Boston, $20 million; Jacksonville (Fla.) Port Authority, international cargo terminal modernization project to handle larger vessels, $20 million; Port of Everett (Wash.), to acquire land and fund improvements to support future container-on-barge service; $15.5 million; Lubec Safe Harbor, Lubec, Maine, $19.6 million; and Paducah, Ky., riverfront improvements, $10.4 million (WJ, November 11).

Chao’s announcement included 55 projects in 35 states.

In addition to ports, BUILD grants also can fund road, bridge, transit, rail and intermodal projects.

According the Department of Transportation (DOT), fiscal year 2019 BUILD grants are for investments in surface transportation infrastructure and have been awarded on a competitive basis to projects with a significant impact on their local communities.

To reflect the Trump administration’s effort to rebalance historic underinvestment in rural America, DOT said it awarded 50 percent of BUILD grant funding to projects located in rural areas.

For this round of BUILD grants, DOT stated, the maximum grant award was $25 million, and the amount awarded to a single state was capped at $90 million.

Seaway Advisory Board

The Advisory Board of the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (SLSDC) is scheduled to meet via conference call at 2 p.m. EST on December 2.

Open to the public, the meeting will be held at SLSDC’s Operations location, 180 Andrews St., Massena, N.Y. 13662.

With the approval of the administrator, members of the public may present statements at the meeting, according to the notice in the Federal Register.

For additional information, contact Wayne Williams at 202-366- 0091.