Washington Waves
Washington Waves

Appropriations, Coronavirus Relief On Agenda As Congress Returns To Work

Washington, D.C.—Members of Congress are returning to the U.S. Capitol after their traditional August recess with two major legislative issues to address, and the waterways industry has interests in both.

First up will be how to break a weeks-long impasse on passing another coronavirus relief package.

Both sides in the stalled negotiations claim they want to reach an agreement to help those still reeling from the impact of the pandemic, but a compromise appears to remain out of reach despite some movement.

That became clear during a recent telephone call between Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) that some had hoped would restart the negotiations. The call lasted all of 36 minutes, and neither side reportedly budged.

Mnuchin continued to push an approach that would include areas of agreement such as a continuation of enhanced jobless benefits, the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses, funding for schools, testing and the U.S. Postal Service. He expressed opposition to a $2.2 trillion proposal pushed by Pelosi and other leading Democrats.

In May, the House passed a package that came in at more than $3 trillion, and top Democrats believe a more robust approach is still needed to address the pandemic fallout now and also in the coming months.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows indicated the Trump administration was open to a $1.3 trillion bill, but a number of Republican senators are expected to balk at that amount.

Members of the waterways industry are hoping a coronavirus relief package would include funding to address the negative impacts it has felt in the wake of the pandemic. The American Association of Port Authorities submitted letters in July to congressional leaders and the Trump administration advocating for such critical relief.

The waterways industry also has an interest in the second major issue facing members of Congress, which is the appropriations process for fiscal year 2021 that begins less than three weeks after lawmakers return. That could represent as little as two weeks of actual legislative days.

With the bills approved by the Democratic-controlled House viewed as DOA in the Republican-controlled Senate—which has yet to advance any of its own bills through committee—a stopgap measure is expected to be used to keep the federal government funded and avoid a shutdown.

Traditionally no new programs or major changes are included in such temporary spending measures.

Given the impact of the pandemic on certain government programs, however, adjustments, referred to as anomalies, are expected to be requested by the White House.

Memphis REC To Reopen

The National Maritime Center (NMC) is reopening Regional Examination Centers (RECs) Memphis, Miami, Long Beach and Toledo for limited examination services beginning Tuesday, September 8.

Those four join RECS Boston, Honolulu, Houston and Juneau, and Monitoring Units (MUs) Ketchikan and San Juan, which were reopened previously for limited services.

Exam services will be by appointment only, the NMC stated, adding no walk-in appointments are available, and all other application customer service functions will continue to be handled remotely.

Mariners seeking to schedule examinations at these locations may do so by using the appropriate e-mail address or phone number below:

• REC Boston—recboston@uscg.mil;

• REC Honolulu—rechonolulu@uscg.mil;

• REC Houston—rechoustonexam@uscg.mil;

• REC Juneau—recjun@uscg.mil;

• REC Long Beach—reclb@uscg.mil;

• REC Memphis—recmemphis@uscg.mil;

• REC Miami—recmia@uscg.mil or 305-536-4331;

• REC Toledo—rectol@uscg.mil;

• MU Ketchikan—907-225-4496 (ext. #3);

• MU San Juan—787-729-2368.

For additional information, contact the NMC call center at 1-888-427-5662 or IASKNMC@uscg.mil.

Customs Committee

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is requesting applications from individuals in the trade and transportation communities to serve on the Commercial Customs Operations Advisory Committee (COAC).

COAC provides recommendations to the secretaries of the Treasury and Homeland Security on the commercial operations of CBP.

Applications should be submitted to CBP by October 19 via email to florence.v.constant-gibson@cbp.dhs.gov, fax at 202-325-4290 or mail to Florence Constant-Gibson, Office of Trade Relations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Room 3.5A, Washington, D.C. 20229.

For additional information, contact Florence Constant-Gibson at 202-344-1440.

MMA Board Of Visitors

The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Board of Visitors is scheduled to meet September 16 in a virtual forum.

Open to the public, the meeting is set to begin at 11 a.m. EDT. Access information will be available at www.usmma.edu/ about/leadership/board-visitors.

Requests to attend the meeting and to submit written materials for review must be received by September 14.

Items on the agenda include an update on actions during the coronavirus pandemic—specifically the return, licensing and graduation of the class of 2020, the return and preparation for Sea Year of the B-Split members of the class of 2023, the return of the Indoctrination cadre and their preparation for Indoctrination training, the reception and training of the class of 2024 and the return of the remainder of the Regiment of Midshipmen—along with updates on the Real Property Master Plan and the status of the NAPA study and minority recruiting efforts for the class of 2025.

For additional information, contact George Rhynedance at 516-726-6048.

Commercial Fishing Committee

The Commercial Fishing Safety Advisory Committee is scheduled to hold a virtual meeting September 24 to discuss voluntary guidelines for the prevention of falls overboard situations as described in task statement #01-19(b).

Open to the public, the session is set to begin at 1 p.m. EDT.

Comments for review should be submitted by September 17 via the federal portal at www.regulations.gov, and pre-meeting documentation will be available at www.dco.uscg.mil/fishsafe by September 21.

For additional information, contact Jonathan Wendland at 202-372-1245.

Offshore Safety Advisory Committee

The National Offshore Safety Advisory Committee has rescheduled a video teleconference meeting to September 30 to discuss matters affecting the offshore oil and gas industry.

Originally scheduled for August 26, the meeting is set to begin at 10 a.m. EDT.

For additional information and to request to join the meeting, contact Cmdr. Stephen West at 202-372-1410.

Fishing Industry Safety

The Coast Guard’s initiatives to promote increased safety in the commercial fishing industry on vessels viewed as high risk have been outlined in a published work instruction.

“More frequent fishing vessel safety examinations of firefighting, lifesaving and other safety systems on vessels that have a higher probability of being in a marine casualty will help reduce the risk that these vessels may pose to people and the environment,” stated a posting on a blog for mariners.

“This work instruction leverages Coast Guard assets to urge the owners and operators of at-risk fishing vessels to complete a dockside exam every two years”

Entitled “Risk Based Fishing Vessel Exam Program, Work Instruction CVC-WI-025(1),” the document was published by the Office of Commercial Vessel Compliance.

It can be viewed on the Office of Commercial Vessel Compliance Publications, References & Work Instructions webpage.

For additional information, contact the Office of Commercial Vessel Compliance, Fishing Vessel Safety Division at CGFishSafe@uscg.mil.