Washington Waves
Washington Waves

Trump Backs Larger Coronavirus Relief Package

Washington, D.C.—President Donald Trump expressed confidence he could persuade reluctant Republicans to back much higher spending to get a huge coronavirus relief package through Congress.

“I like the larger amount,” the president said at a news briefing. “Some of the Republicans disagree, but I think I can get them to go along with that.” Trump made it clear his goal was to get money out quickly to Americans who have been impacted by a global pandemic they did not cause.

He also shared positive comments on a trillion-dollar-plus package unveiled by the Problem Solvers Caucus, a bipartisan House group made up of 25 Democrats and 25 Republicans, but he stopped short of an outright endorsement.

“We are getting closer,” said Trump, who until now has allowed other top officials to represent the administration’s views in negotiations that have been stalled for weeks.

Areas covered by the group’s framework included another round of direct stimulus payments, enhanced unemployment benefits, aid to local and state governments and liability protection.

Congressional leaders wasted no time in rejecting the proposal.

Major sticking points remain the price tag and aid to cash-strapped states and cities.

If that deadlock continues, an expected stopgap measure to keep the government funded and open past October 1, the beginning of fiscal year 2021, cannot be counted on as a Plan B.

So-called clean continuing resolutions are used to keep spending at the rate of the previous year without major changes or new programs.

Spellmon Priorities

Lt. Gen. Scott Spellmon, the 55th Chief of Engineers and newly installed commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, listed partnerships with industry, project sponsors and academia as one of four areas that will be his focus.

Such relationships are critical given the historic levels of investment the nation is making in its infrastructure, Spellmon said during remarks at the change of command ceremony and in a letter to agency workers later.

The other three areas included the people who make up the Corps, readiness and continuation of the revolution to expand and accelerate the changes to the program and project delivery.

Spellmon succeeded Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, who retired after four decades in the Army and four years as commander of the Corps.

LMRWSAC Terminated

The Coast Guard served notice it is terminating the Lower Mississippi River Waterway Safety Advisory Committee.

Established in 1991, the committee had advised the Department of Homeland Security on traffic management, surveillance, anchorages, operation of the New Orleans Vessel Traffic Service and other topics.

It has been inactive since 2018.

For additional information, contact Melanee Libby at 202-372-4572.

TWIC Clarification

The U.S. Coast Guard issued a Marine Safety Information Bulletin to provide clarification on Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) Operations for maritime operators dealing with the ongoing COVID 19 pandemic.

Key takeaways:

• the June 7 implementation date for the TWIC Reader Rule will not be changed for facilities that receive vessels certificated to carry more than 1,000 passengers, but its enforcement will be delayed until December 31;

• applicable facilities and vessels are not required to install readers or update facility security plans or vessel security plans until the revised enforcement date;

• TWICs expiring on or after August 1 will no longer remain valid, and holders must re-enroll if they require a valid TWIC; and

• escort ratios for secure and restricted areas may be adjusted to meet employee shortages or other demands but would constitute a change to the facility security plan or require Captain of the Port approval.

Additional information is available at dco.uscg.mil/Portals/9/NMC/pdfs/announcements/2020/MSIB-13-20-change-1.pdf.

Questions can be sent to OutbreakQuestions@uscg.mil.

More RECs Reopen

The National Maritime Center (NMC) announced the September 21 reopening of Regional Examinations Centers (RECs) in Charleston, New Orleans and New York for limited services.

They join RECs previously reopened in Boston, Honolulu, Houston, Juneau, Long Beach, Memphis, Miami, Seattle and Toledo as well as Monitoring Units in Ketchikan and San Juan.

Mariners should contact these locations directly to schedule examinations, the NMC stated, adding walk-in appointments remain unavailable.

Nationwide Permits

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is seeking comments on its proposal to renew and revise 52 nationwide permits and issue five new nationwide permits.

Last authorized in 2017, the permits cover a number of work areas, including aids to navigation and waters regulated by Section 404 of the Clean Water Act and Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899.

The five new permits pertain to seaweed agriculture activities, finfish mariculture activities, electric utility line and telecommunications activities, utility line activities for water and other substances and discharges of dredged material into jurisdictional waters for work related to water reclamation and reuse facilities.

Comments must be submitted by November 16.

For additional information, contact David Olson at 202-761-4922.

EPA Guidance Documents

Andrew Wheeler, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, announced a first-ever final rule promoting transparency in developing regulatory guidance documents.

Wheeler described the action as “perhaps the biggest change in administrative procedures in a generation.” Key changes include establishing the first formal process for the public to request that EPA modify, withdraw or reinstate a guidance document.

Top Republicans on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee applauded the rule, saying it will bring greater clarity, transparency and fairness to how the agency produces guidance documents.

EPA historically has been one of the government’s top sources of guidance documents, which critics in the past suggested were used to create obligations without going through the required regulatory process.

Laying Up Vessels

The Coast Guard’s Office of Commercial Vessel Compliance published Work Instruction CVC-WI-018(1) “Laid Up Inspected/Examined Vessels” to outline the process of laying up inspected and examined commercial vessels and provide greater consistency between Captain of the Port zones.

“Additionally, completing the lay-up process will alleviate operators of paying user fees for laid-up vessels,” stated a mariner blog posting.

The document can be viewed on the Office of Commercial Vessel Compliance Publications, References & Work Instruction webpage.

For additional information, contact FlagStateControl@uscg.mil.

Sea Service Extension

The Coast Guard announced an extension of the period from three years to seven years for using sea service aboard vessels of the uniformed services to satisfy the requirement to qualify for a Merchant Mariner Credential with a national officer endorsement. Effective September 16, the rule addresses the obstacle posed by the requirement that at least three months of qualifying sea service must have occurred within three years immediately preceding an application.

For additional information, contact Cathleen Mauro at 202-372-1449.